How does that make me feel?
Totally shit as it happens but thank you for asking.
I used to enjoy my work, you know, going back and forth each day, keeping the weight off easily through every day exertion, meeting people, doing the right thing. The wages were never amazing but it was enough for my family and no mention of any hand-outs from the state at all. It was good to know benefits existed though because there was a feeling of comfort that if things went wrong, there was a safety net.
In the early 90’s I had a breakdown. I was aware I already had two disabled children, it was a struggle to balance caring and work. I had the mental anguish of still needing to hide my sexuality and felt that I was having to do the thinking for an additional 4 people. I was coping until we had a motor accident and then it all fell apart. At that moment, though no one was seriously hurt, I was shown how vulnerable my family was and how little control of that I had. Over the space of a weekend I totally lost it. At the time I was a milkman, I had way in excess of 500 customers I delivered to every day in all weather. I knew that round inside out. I didn’t need my book to know who had what order, who had left notes out to have extra or less and how much each owed. The route was instinctive. We had the accident on the Saturday, I went into work on the Monday and I couldn’t remember which way to turn out of the yard. I had to ask for directions and felt useless. I had to follow the book for every customer, I’d not got anywhere near halfway 4 hours after I would normally have finished when I had to admit defeat, there was something seriously wrong with me. I was off work for a few weeks, sleeping mostly and my boss sacked me. Because I was sacked we were not entitled to any benefits. I’d lost the energy to fight and allowed all this to happen, we lived on such a small amount of money it was amazing we survived but, we did. I got medication and, after a few failures we found some which worked. It took two years for me to get to the point where I was OK again, two very difficult years of panic attacks, depression and anxiety. I learnt a lot at that time about relaxation and management.
In ‘93 I had to concede that it wouldn’t be possible for me to return to work as my caring role for the kids was too great. We had another child on the way which was imposed upon me at a time when my judgement was not my own. I love my Daisy to bits but, I always wanted to be honest with her. I am not sure I had any of my children for the right reasons and the right time but, had them I did, I have loved each of them since before they were born and they could have any part of me if it kept them alive. Once I accepted the full time caring role I was trapped in the system, let me tell you about that system.
As someone in receipt of state benefits it doesn’t matter any more why. No one cares whether there is a reason which can be explained or justified. Someone on benefits is owned, owned by anyone who works and pays taxes. When someone works they can and do tell, friends, family and colleagues about their upcoming holiday and no one asks them to explain why they deserve it or how they afforded it. If a working person buys a new TV then, good on them, they earned it, not so someone on benefits, they are likely to be reported for potential benefit fraud. Those on benefits do not have the right to a happy and fulfilling life. People, other people, those who don’t get it, ensure that those on benefits are made to feel like the lowest of the low, the minority who must accept mistreatment and abuse because they are owned by society, not as loved pets but as less than dogs. Many would see those on benefits as being entitled to have food parcels or vouchers so that they cannot waste the valuable money of the workers on trivial things meant only to give pleasure. By denying those on benefits they will, the theory goes, get a job, stop being a burden on society and then persecute those remaining on benefits.
Well, for a tiny minority within a minority it is true, they work the system, they fiddle the books, they have criminal intent. what they do not have is any intent at all to be a part of society in any way, they are takers not givers. The tool being used is the same as, do you remember … when you were at school, did they ever give class detentions because the teacher couldn’t work out which kid created a problem so you all got the blame? Well, being on benefits is like that. It doesn’t matter why someone is on them they are all as guilty as each other because rooting out the real criminals is too difficult, too costly, too much effort.
Once a minority had been decided to be the lowest of the low, the way they then get treated doesn’t matter so, blaming all for the actions of a few is acceptable. Could this apply anywhere else? In your shop you work for, £2000 of stuff went missing last week, it looks like staff taking it and there were 20 of you in that week so, each member of staff is docked £100 from their wages, is that right or fair? Your bank employs 40,000 staff but someone has lost the bank £4bn pounds so, each member of staff either gets £25,000 cut from their wages or a bill for the shortfall to be repaid as dictated by the company, is that fair? You save for 5 years around 10,000 for the most amazing holiday ever, you’ve made cut backs, sold some stuff, tightened your family belt and along comes the tax man and tell you that if you have that sort of spare money then you obviously didn’t need all your wages, you were paid too much so, he stops your wages and forces you to use all that money as income at your normal wage level until it is gone, is that fair or right in any way?
No, none of those are fair or right but common experience for those on benefits. Remember, most are not criminals, they are just ordinary people trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances.
The next time you read about benefit scroungers, bedroom taxes and a freeze to 1% on benefits, remember most of those people, like me, hate every day they are on benefits being the scum of the country, we are not bad people, we’re just unlucky bastards and it could be you next time. Don’t make us all out as bad, some, most of us are lovely people who do the right thing