Against the backdrop of this month’s jubilant A-level and GCSE results, 17-year-old Sanjeev Singh provides a different picture of what it is to be young in Conservative Britain.Oh, the humanity! I should provide a ‘trigger warning’ here, because it seems that Sanjeev is forced to…
*readers of a nervous disposition might want to look away now*
…ride THE BUS!
In many ways, Sanjeev is a young person “doing the right thing”. He lives at home with his mum and three siblings and, since leaving school a year ago, he has persisted in looking for work. But Sanjeev, 17, is deaf and once prospective employers know he has a disability, they don’t contact him again.
He keeps trying to get interviews but, unable to travel safely alone on public transport, he has no way of getting to them.Yes, incredible as it may seem, in a country where a double amputee once flew fighter aircraft in combat in a war zone, the removal of a taxpayer-funded taxicab to job interviews is cause for weeping, wailing and rending of garments.
Personally, having ridden the bus in term time (thanks, RMT strikers!), I’d think being deaf would be a blessed relief from the screaming & shouting that seems to take the place of normal conversation, but there we are…
This is where the welfare state’s safety net is meant to kick in. Disability living allowance (DLA), for example – a benefit Sanjeev has received since he was six years old – could pay for a taxi on the days he needs get to an interview and has no one to help him communicate with the crowds on a bus.
But the government chose to replace DLA with personal independence payment (PIP) and after being tested for the new, tougher assessment in December, Sanjeev had his benefits stopped, after more than a decade.What you’re describing isn’t a ‘safety net’, Frances, it’s a feather bed. Hundreds of deaf people cope with public transport, why should Sanjeev not be able to cope?
Clearly, the Benefit Office realised this, which is why the payments stopped.
Sanjeev tells me he’s going to keep looking for work while starting the appeal process to try and get his disability benefit back. He asks if I know how to fill out the forms. “I’m not getting any help,” he explains. “I’ll need to tell my mum to ring them.”So you expect to get a job, but can’t manage to fill in the appeal forms without ‘help’? Good lord, you’re seventeen! Why would anyone employ someone so hopeless?
And this hopelessness has nothing to do with your disability, but with your attitude to life. Is being deaf and jobless a picnic? No, I doubt it. Has life dealt you a harsh card? Yes, undoubtedly. But that doesn’t mean you can expect a life coddled by your mum and the taxpayer forever!
Employers aren’t going to be impressed with ‘I can’t get to the interview ‘cos I ain’t got money for a taxi, innit?’ if they can look up and see their own disabled employees at their desks, working away, having surmounted the difficulty of commuting.
I think your main ‘disability’ is perpetual childhood. Grow up.