It's not really surprising how our philosophy changes on most matters as time goes by. I've always tried to stay away from Daily Mail-esque beliefs on the welfare system and the dependency culture, not just because I myself was on benefits for many years but because I can see both sides of the argument. Another reason being that whenever someone started this conversation, I also feared that I might fuel the prejudice some people already hold against ethnic minorities. I understand that some people are on benefits for genuine reasons. BUT I also know of a small minority of people who are not.
My new understanding comes from a new turning point in my life recently, approximately 3 weeks ago when I got myself a job in a local pub. Over the past year I have been contemplating heavily on my purpose in life. Along the way, I have met some extraordinary people who have inspired me push myself. A friend owns and runs a successful shop, even though she herself suffers from severe chronic back pain. My current boss suffers from back pain too yet runs 2 pubs. Although I am still in pain, all of the time, I thought I should go for it. Try.
I had 3 different types of responses: fear, excitement, and a sort of exasperation. Those of my friends who are on DLA told me that I would lose DLA- as though it was the end of the my life, that I should not go for it. Friends who are not on any type of benefits or not on illness related benefits were very happy and encouraging and my key worker type of person was not happy. She actually told me to find a job behind a desk and not tell DLA. On top of this, she told me it's a bad idea as I would lose DLA, again, as though it was the end of the world, that keeping hold of DLA was the most important thing. She was, of course, confused when I interjected and told her I wanted this and wanted to push myself and see what my body was capable of. After all, what's the point of my degree when I am not even sure about what my body can or can't do. What's the point when I'm not sure if I can work, etc. Of course finding work in the field I want to go into would be better but evening work for a few hours a week at the moment is a lot better for me. What's the point in running before I can learn to walk. My DLA friends and the key worker's thinking really threw me. Although I was not surprised. I have tried very hard to not become a scared little person, it's hard to get away from it, when you are on disability benefits. I suppose looking in from the outside, it can be difficult to understand this way of thinking.
I did a trial shift and after a few days rang up DLA, believing my key worker, I said out right that I don't think I can get DLA any more as I have found myself a part time job. The guy on the other end said he would send me a form to fill in to see whether I could still get a lower rate whilst working, as you can get it whilst working and he said that if I wanted to end my claim I had to send in a letter. I was happy to go ahead with the first decision so I didn't send a letter to end anything.
Two weeks later, instead of getting the form I got a letter saying I was no longer 'disabled' and my claim had been ended. I would also not receive this months payment. I wasn't upset that I was no longer getting DLA. I was annoyed that I had been told one thing but they did another. Even the woman on the phone was confused and confessed that it was all wrong. Some one from the decision maker's office was going to ring me,,, eventually.
Last Friday morning, I got a call from a posh speaking man. He basically told me I was no longer in pain and that I was better because I had got a part time job. He also contradicted himself quite a few times. In particular, he said they can only stop someone's claim if a letter is written to them- I didn't send them one... that of course didn't stop them. In the end, we agreed that I would get my last payment and that would be the end. On Saturday, I get a letter that says I won't.
I'm angry that I have been told I don't need help with anything and that I am not in pain. I am angry that the one place that I thought understood my pain has turned around and treated me so horribly. My sanity has taken a beating, yet I will persist.
I thought- no wonder people don't try to go out there and see what they are capable of. They fear the system, they are afraid that if they fail, they won't be taken back. The DWP is akin to the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who, the people (not terminally ill or have degenerative diseases) on these benefits are so afraid of losing this life line and showing any signs of improvement. They are not encouraged to try something because they all probably know people like me. The person who tries to do something and is told they are better, there's nothing wrong with them. Hence, these people never try to see how far they can go, rather not try in case they get told they're fine.
I feel sorry for these people, for they are seen as the main culprits of the ever growing dependency culture. But in reality they are the victims. In the coming months, like cattle they will be sent to the slaughter house, for PIP cometh.
I am not certain of what should be done for these people. But some understanding and a little respect should be a start.
I am finally no longer on any type of benefit. Something I wanted to achieve since the first day I went on them, it wasn't out of choice; I was homeless. I feel at peace in many ways. I don't feel that I can be judged, not in the way that will ever hurt me.