Well first off, writing about Politics is a new thing for me to do so bear with me. Most things about Politics go straight over my head and despite a Tweeter doing his best to educate me (thanks Chris!) I'm still pretty ignorant about the whole business. So if I say something wrong, I apologise but I don't apologise for my opinions. That's something I will NEVER apologise for!
So the Tory Party Conference is on at the moment. I've been hearing on the news that they've been saying that they want to limit Child Benefits to those who don't work. In theory, it *could* be a good idea, if they make sure they plan it out properly and don't slash these benefits to those who are unable to work through long term illness or injury. It's not often that I agree with politicians and this "idea" they have at the moment is highly controversial. I don't believe that many people will agree with this idea and as someone who is on benefits, why I am agreeing with them? Well, hear me out, this is how I believe this idea they have would work.
WARNING, CONTAINS IGNORANCE OF POLITICS AND SOME POSSIBLE COMMON SENSE. POLITICIANS MAY FIND BOTH MY IGNORANCE AND COMMON SENSE LAUGHABLE.
So here's my plan for how benefits would work. I know this would probably never happen but it is just my idea. Jobseeker's Allowance and the other benefits that go hand in hand with it would only be given to people who do voluntary work for about 16 hours a week or more. Those who genuinely want to get back into work wouldn't mind doing the voluntary work as it will enhance their CV and could even help them to get back into paid work. It would also give dignity to those who feel ashamed at claiming benefits when they don't work as they will be doing some work to earn the benefit money they receive, plus it will help the charities who rely on volunteers to continue running. Enforcing voluntary work to receive Jobseeker's would also reveal the "scroungers" who either apply for jobs that are way out of their league or write terrible application forms in order to not receive an interview. I think about 16 hours of voluntary work a week would leave enough time for those who are genuinely seeking work to find and apply for jobs. With voluntary work, most charities are so desperate for volunteers that they will give them any hours they want so there wouldn't be any excuse that they couldn't get convenient hours. Obviously there are many potential loopholes in this and there would need to be a lot of ironing out of the fine details etc but that's the basic gist of my idea.
Now, disability benefits. I believe that for those who get onto long term disability benefits, there should be an annual review at the least. Obviously, if an illness or injury improves you have to hope that people are honest enough to tell the DWP of the improvement and if they are able to get back into work, you can only hope that people are honest enough to go back into work. With an annual review at their GP Surgery, hopefully GPs will be able to spot the dishonest ones who are faking or exaggerating their illness/injury and without a letter from their GP (or a specialist doctor if the applicant is in hospital), their benefits will stop. There will be an appeal process obviously but it would be arranged by a company with some actual competence, not a organisation like ATOS. If the GP is satisfied that the illness/injury of the applicant is still severe enough for them not to be able to work, then a letter by the GP will be sufficient for the applicant to receive disability benefits for another 12 months. Again, this is just the gist of the idea and it would need ironing out.
So the idea the Tories have had today - limiting child benefits to those who have "too many" children. If my idea was in place and Jobseekers was only given out to those who do voluntary work for 16+ hours a week then the child benefits shouldn't be limited. But those who refused to do voluntary work and just milked the benefits system for all they could get without working, the child benefits would be capped at two children. If the family wanted to have another child, one of them would have to either get a job or volunteer for 16 hours a week. I agree with what the Tories said about the Middle Class having to plan and weigh up whether or not they could afford having another child and those who do no work not having to consider their financial state. Those who receive disability benefits would not have this cap as they do not choose to have their illness/injury and the majority would work if they were able to!
So for those who are cynical about those of us who receive disability benefits and think that disabled people shouldn't have their 'hand-out' lifestyle, please continue reading. Those who have a disability face serious challenges in their daily life. Although those born with a disability will grow up not knowing what it is like to not have a disability and may be able to adapt more to their lifestyle to those who become disabled in later life, no disabled person should be discriminated against because of their disability! They did not CHOOSE their disability and although some with a disability may say they don't mind their disability, why should somebody who is not able to work through no fault of their own not be helped financially? If you work and resent having your hard earned money taxed away from you and given to someone who has never worked a day in their life, consider that if disabled people are not given financial help to live at home, they would probably have to move to a care home or hospital which would cost CONSIDERABLY more. I was in an NHS hospital for almost a year and a half and I dread to think how much that cost the taxpayer. Yet there was no way I could live at home; hospital was necessary for me. If you leave people who have no other way of receiving an income without money, they could become seriously ill and have to go back into hospital. That will cost the middle class a lot more money in the long term! Plus the amount of suicides from those refused disability benefits is far too many and without financial help, there would be a lot more.
For anyone with a sick mind who thinks that someone with a disability should just die and stop being a burden to the state, then do you not value a human life? If you don't value a fellow human's life, then frankly why should anyone value yours? Anyone (even YOU) could have an accident that leaves them with complex and lifelong needs and everyone should have financial help if they are in this predicament. Mental Illness is something else that does not discriminate and no one is immune from getting one at some point in their life. The British Red Cross advertisement at the minute could well change from being about a crisis to being about Mental Illness. Just like a crisis does not care who you are, Mental Illness does not care who you are.
You may think that you could pull yourself together if you felt a bit low but if you had true depression or another mental illness, you would not be able to snap out of it straight away. Some may be able to keep working, others may just take a short break and get back to work. They are the lucky ones. Some of us with mental illnesses are not able to work for an extended period of time. I am not a lazy scrounger despite what my black dog tells me from time to time. I worked hard at school from the age of 4 and worked hard at work from the age of 16. I have paid taxes and National Insurance and at the moment I am frustrated at not being able to work. I want to work. I DESPERATELY want to work. But I can't. If I start working, I will no doubt become ill again. I tried working voluntarily for a few months a year ago. It was only one afternoon a week but I couldn't manage it. I had to leave.
Without my benefits, my family would have to seriously tighten our belts. Even with the money I bring in from benefits, my father is considering going back into work. Without my benefits, at least one of my retired parents would probably have to go back to work. And finding a job at their age (sorry Mum and Dad!) would be difficult for them and they would probably end up on Minimum Wage and have to work for long hours. I know I wouldn't be able to work and bring in money without becoming ill again. I would cost the state more money being ill in hospital than well and on benefits at home. So for those of you who work, could you not spare some of the money you earn to help those who cannot work to stay out of hospital? I can understand your anger at those who refuse to work and frankly I am angry at those people too. But for those who CANNOT work, how can you be angry at them? They didn't choose their disability and I know that I would wish my illness away if I could so I could get back into work.
More of my opinions about my Mental Illness and employment can be found here: http://www.timetochangewales.org.uk/blog/mental-illness-and-employment
So there's my ideas about how the benefits system should change and my plea for those who discriminate against those with disabilities to change their thinking. I cannot write as clearly as I'd like to but I can hope that my passion for opinions to change would rub off on those who discriminate. Do not discriminate against those who did not choose their situation, if you want to discriminate against someone, discriminate against those who are able to work but refuse to. And those who can work but don't because they are looking after someone with a disability is technically working. And probably working a LOT harder than those who work 9-5 and then come home to a healthy family.
Just a *bit* of food for thought!