So, it's October. Month of the much trailed Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR)
The weather is perversely warm and bright, but there's a chill in the air all the same.
When did it start? Let me think.
Oh yes, that first 11 billion announced by the cloaked-one to be cut from the welfare bill. We started to hear the assurance that only those "making a lifestyle choice" to live on benefits would be affected. The benign and eminently reasonable suggestion that "Those that can work, do so." Who could possibly object to that?
Yet, there was a more sinister, underlying story. Mr Osborne thought that of the 2.6 million people claiming Incapacity Benefit (Now mostly converted to Employment Support Allowance or ESA), a full 1.5 million could work and would be "encouraged" to do so. That's an apparent 60% of the total claimants currently cheating. Everyone on ESA would be "re-assessed" by the private firm, ATOS, who are paid according to how many people they find to be "fit to work."
What next? Oh yes, a cap on housing benefit. All those enormous immigrant families living in million pound properties in Islington and Westminster at the tax-payers expense. Except there weren't actually that many.
The cap, set at £500 a week sounds generous enough (many working families would think rent of £2000 per month well beyond their reach. The Daily Mail looks smug....) But hold on, research shows that up to 86,000 families could be evicted, children pulled out of schools, work lost, family networks destroyed and ghettoes created. Is this actually social cleansing? It looks unlikely that the poor will be able to remain in the wealthier areas of our country, leaving them marginalised still further. More frighteningly, does this help the Conservatives to win a few more seats in London next time, by making sure natural Labour voters simply can't live in many key London marginals?
A suggestion that council house tenants are no longer secure and will be moved from their homes if a more deserving family is waiting, that the unemployed be shipped away from their friends and family to areas of higher employment all threaten to rip our communities apart.
Last week, the narrative took a rather more genteel turn. An end to child benefit for households with a higher tax payer. Again, who could object? Anyone earning over 44k surely didn't need the measly 20.30 a week awarded to all first children in the country? Or the pitiful 13.40 a week awarded to subsequent children. why, for goodness sake, that would barely buy a decent spa day once a month, or fill the Range Rover. Again, the devil was in the detail. A couple both earning 43k (86k combined) would still qualify, whereas a single parent or a family with just one earner on 45k would not.
This week, the rhetoric has cranked up another notch. The Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt MP (Con, obviously), claims we shouldn't be paying poor people to have children anyway, whilst the even less honourable Nadine Dorries MP (Con, obviously) suggests bloggers like myself should be reported to the DSS for daring to claim a life in cyberspace denied to us in reality. If we can tweet or type, we can work she insists.
And so a new blog is born. I am a part of this huge, faceless section of society now labelled "scroungers" or "lazy" or "living in the lap of luxury". I live in fear of the CSR, daily getting more and more proof that it won't be "fair" it won't look after the most "vulnerable in our society". Already, the IFS claim that the budget will hit the poorest ten times harder than the wealthy, and women nearly three times harder than men. As a comic just said on a panel show, it's like the titanic approach to cuts "Women and children first (yes, yes and sinking fast!)
Over the weeks and months that follow, I will post my story. I will explain my condition and how it affects my life. I invite others to comment and share their stories. "Disability" is a blunt term and it's often not until you live with a condition that you appreciate just how limiting it is, how traumatic or painful or demeaning.
If the cuts affect me, I'll post when and how. If I am "assessed" again, I'll tell you how it goes. If another thoughtless Tory makes another thoughtless statement about disability and sickness, you'll read it here! Please do add your own experiences, and if you hear about any cuts to welfare in your area, this is the place to share them.
I do not accept that we are helpless, that there is "nothing we can do". We can do plenty, we can say plenty, we can fight cuts and we can tell the country day in and day out that this is unnecessary, unhelpful and dangerous.