The government's proposed welfare reforms are apparently designed to target those who need encouragement back into work and to prevent people from claiming benefit when they are not entitled to. Fair enough, some might think. Except that is not what is happening.
The reality is that some of the most vulnerable and most in need of care are being challenged as to whether they need benefits that are essential if they are to lead independent fulfilling lives.And, presumably, she believes they should never, ever be so challenged. ‘Society’ should just fork over the readies and never, ever dare to ask questions.
And she’s got a handy little sentimental anecdote to prove her point:
Let me tell you about "Jane", who has been living at home with her mother for 47 years but is now striking out to become independent. She has Down's syndrome and her mother has helped her to set up in supported living and learn to use the bus, so that she can get to her voluntary work in a charity shop, her cake-making group, and her other activities.
Recently, Jane was alarmed to receive a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions, telling her that she may be getting too much benefit and that she had to go to see someone about it. The letter was not in an accessible format, nor was the communication done through an advocate, friend or relative who could have explained it and supported her.Yes? And?
Government is large and impersonal and communicates badly. It sends long-winded, verbose and confusing tax letters to pensioners and youth, the dim and the genius alike. So what?
She worried until she could talk to her mum, who in turn worried until they could both talk to someone who explained that everyone got a letter and she would be alright. But she still worried until another letter was sent to confirm that her situation would not change.Life is worry. For everyone.
Later that week Jane had another distressing incident as she travelled home on the bus – the same bus she caught every night as part of a well-planned routine. Sat minding her own business with her purse on her lap, two men got on the bus and sat in front of her. They were drunk and started hassling Jane for money, asking her what she had in her purse and calling her names when she didn't give them anything. She was terrified. Luckily they got off two stops later, laughing at her and making comments, while she stayed on the bus until her stop.
No other passenger got up to help or protect Jane while the incident was taking place. Not one of the people who she sees every night on that bus stepped in to help.This is quite common. In fact, it happened just the other day. Did you not notice?
Or was it the fact that Tim Smits isn’t ‘vulnerable’ that meant the story wasn’t even on your radar?
I did not believe this at first when I heard it from her mother but the CCTV camera on the bus showed exactly that – people looking the other way when the men were hassling Jane.
So why didn't they do anything? Why in this era of the 'big society' did they not help? Were they too worried about their own safety to step in or did they believe that people who are vulnerable or different don't need help and support and they ought to be able to look after themselves?Tim Smits wasn’t 'vulnerable or different’, and the same thing happened to him. This lady wasn’t ‘vulnerable or different’ and a similar (worse!) thing happened to her, and she's not in a country that is 'stripping benefits from the vulnerable', is she?
I hope these two incidents are only connected by the fact they happened in the same week.I think, given the contrary evidence, that we can safely say that’s the case.
But if it is a reflection of a growing belief that those who need care and support somehow do not deserve it, then we are indeed in trouble as a society – "big" or otherwise.Well, you can stop worrying then, can’t you? It doesn't seem as if your chosen identity group is being singled out for special treatment after all.