Friday 14 January 2011

To the Mainstream UK Media

Dear Mainstream Media

I'm mystified, totally puzzled.

I know there are lots of cuts happening all at once and group after group must be lobbying for column inches or news slots. Students, middle income child benefit recipients, housing benefit claimants frightened they are about to become homeless, nurses, fire fighters, police, local councils - we all want you to take our cause to heart, to tell people what is really happening on our behalf.

Students have marched, with youth and vitality and could presumably do so until 2015. The broadsheets were falling over themselves to tell the higher rate tax paying, cornflake-munching- commuters of Britain just how much they stand to lose in child benefit. (£1,055 per year for the first child, £696.80 for each additional child). You've made sure that most of us know how many police officers we could lose or how pay freezes faced by nurses will add up.

But there is a group who might as well not exist. The newspapers rarely write about us, (unless it is to demonise or deny us with Daily Mail Group hyperbole) the TV stations turn a blind eye - there is not even a political party prepared to stand up for us. We have no-one but ourselves, yet our voices are probably the weakest in society. Most of us can't physically march, some can't even speak at all and others don't know what is being done to them. We have no networks of influential contacts, most can't attend rallies or flash-mobs.

Sick and Disabled people are now facing cuts of up to a third in their incomes. Since George Osborne's Comprehensive Spending Review last October, there has been a steady drip-drip of almost daily announcements that have stripped away decades of hard-fought dignity in just a few short months.

-Employment Support Allowance (ESA) will now be time limited to 1 year        (Cost : £4752.80 pa)
-2.27 Million of the 2.5 million claiming ESA will now be considered fit for work (91%)
-Up to 750,000 of the most profoundly disabled who claim DLA will also be found fit and have their benefits stopped (25%)
-Benefit rates have been frozen (Potential loss of up to 15% of income over 5 yr parliament)
-Housing benefit caps will make many disabled people homeless
-Work support schemes are being scrapped at a time when unemployment is already creeping towards 3 million. The "Access to Work" programme will be scrapped, which helped small and medium sized businesses adapt premises, job centres face cuts and a private, American firm (ATOS) have been given an almost total monopoly in forcing us into work, paid commission for each "success"
-Local councils face cuts so vast (27% over 5 yr parliament) that they have already started to cut vital support services - pulling funding for hospices, axing specialist school provision, closing hospital wards, cutting care packages - the list goes on and on. This article might help to put things into perspective
-Disability Living Allowance is to be scrapped and replaced, whilst adults needing full time residential care and children in hospital will have the basic right of mobility taken away from them, with the scrapping of mobility payments for these groups.

These are not people with a little twinge here and there. A few headaches or a sore finger. They are the Mum with breast cancer or teenager with heart disease. They are our sons with leukaemia or our profoundly disabled sister with muscular dystrophy. They are the college friend who broke his spine in the army or the lover who nearly drowned on holiday and was left brain damaged. The wife or the daughter or the nan who used to run marathons, now fighting for every agonised breath from lung disease.

Most aren't born sick. The odd headache or a twinge in the chest becomes a tumour or a blood clot and life changes forever. That Thursday morning doctor's appointment stops the world from turning and the blood runs cold in your veins. Most face disability in a heartbeat as their car flips into a ditch or their ski comes loose. Lawyers and bankers and producers and columnists don't have a special immunity gene. Their spines crush and their previously taken-for-granted bodies let them down just as easily as those of cleaners or shop-assistants. This is the most important issue any of us will face - and we will face it. One in three will develop some kind of cancer, over 10 million in the UK suffer from a disability or chronic illness.

In exactly one month, DLA is due to be slashed by parliament. By the 14th February, if sickness or disability come for you or your loved ones, (and sadly, the statistics are that one day, in some form, they will) you may find that all those NI payments and tax contributions have been for nothing. You may find yourself totally dependent on a partner financially, unable to get treatment, care or equipment to make your already unrecognisable life liveable. If you have no partner, you may find yourself in abject poverty, or even homeless as you try to face the un-faceable. If your soft and perfect new baby turns out to be autistic or dying, you may have to helplessly watch them die. If you think this is dramatic or overly emotional, actually it probably isn't dramatic enough. I have one month to make you aware of what your future could hold.

Today, we use the only tool we have - the blogosphere. Happily, the internet is awash with eloquence, passion and determination. Bloggers all over the web have agreed to write about this today. The hashtag #ombh will be used on Twitter to bring these articles together. Wherever you look, I hope you read stories like this. You can help by posting this and articles like it (see ) on Facebook, websites and Twitter, by calling radio phone-ins and writing to your MP (a template letter will be available at Broken of Britain too) Sign petitions, tell your friends, write to the papers. You can use the "One Month Before Heartbreak" picture at the top of my site as your avatar or you can blog yourself.

Just help. Please. Before you realise that we were right, but we couldn't change things in time to save your Mum or your wife or your son.


  1. Great post Sue, mine can be found here -


  2. Brilliant and eloquent as always Sue. I think trying to get them to realise it could be them one day is the key to make them think.

  3. Thanks guys. Carl, I thought I'd read them all later and comment as much as possible, linking each on Twitter. (No-one will mind will they?)

    (Just publicising at moment, once it gets really going, I'll Twitter it up, lol)

  4. I think it's 'not happened yet' syndrome Sue.
    I kept posting until I was blue in the face (don't like writing that actually!) to polling anoraks, that the reason their was no uproar is that there was nothing to promote it - 'yet'.

    The uplift for Labour in the polls will have more to do with petrol prices which is ironic as I am sure Ed Miliband would wish to limit consumption of that stuff by any means (he is a true environmentalist).

    No, 'benefit scroungers' need a mass of people chained to railings in Parliament Sq in the freezing cold in February. It would be better to choose the more visually handicapped than others to achieve maximum 'splash' effect.

    In other words, use the methods that ensure media coverage. Ladle on the effect in spades (use terminally ill people on stretchers?).

    We all remember Mrs Duffy.

  5. You're so right Howard.

    This campaign is going great guns though. Thousands of views, amazing posts, and suddenly the mirror and inde asking what DLA is and why it helps (?!?!? Shows how far there is to go.)
    Guardian helping, all very exciting.

    Actually, you've reminded me, I have a great idea for a protest, I think I'll go pitch it, thanks......

  6. Great post! One month before heartache! xxx

  7. Hi,
    an excellent post, it really made me think. I am one of those who didn't have a full idea of what the government is doing to the sick and disabled.

    Hope you don't mind me reposting this on my blog.
    Thank you :-)xx

  8. This is just great Sue, thanks so much for writing it.

    And re Howard's suggestion, I'm more than willing to chain myself to parliament's railings. Where do I sign up?

  9. claude, I'm so glad it made you think, lol. It's great if you linked to it, exactly what I hope for.

    jimboeth - I have a fab idea about a protest. I'm asking if Guardian want it for tomorrow as part of ongoing #ombh campaign, if not I'll post it myself and send it to BofB.

  10. I do think it's a bit ironic that when Frankie Boyle does a few jokes about disability and cancer many of the tabloids tore him to shreds yet these some papers have said virtualy nothing about cuts in benefits that will leave many sick and disabled people living well below the poverty line and facing the prospects of being made homeless.

    I think part of the answer is to keep plugging away on the Internet and also in local papers in the hope that the nationals will eventually pick it up.

    Sadly it will probably take a suicide or someone dying of neglect before the papers really sit up and take notice.

  11. True, true crispin.

    I'm trying to get update form #ombh though - I've a feeling it's going very very well indeed :)

  12. For what its worth, I've sent a nice email to the excellent and well-frequented Socialist Unity blog asking them re-post this blog article of yours Sue - I hope that's ok - and also asking them to highlight the 1 Month Before Heartbreak campaign.

    Crispin, that's an excellent point about Frankie Boyle.
    The thing is, when Frankie has given straightforward political views in public, they've been brilliant. His defence of the people of Gaza and his attack on the BBC was the best -
    Frankie Boyle responds: 'The BBC are cowards'
    Aol Television
    30 Apr 2010

  13. joe90 kane - It's worth a LOT, thanks.

  14. Is it ok if I cross post this on my blog?

  15. Of course Rick, I'd be delighted, thank you.

  16. I have just lost £53 per week that i get from my incapacity benefit for my wife who works 15 hours a week so that she can look after me and to make sure I'm OK.
    She is only on the minimum wage as well so that is a big hit from a bottom of the earnings household and no explanation whatsoever from the DWP
    I have asked my mp to try to find out but i don't hold out much hope
    As that is over two hundred pounds a month i thought the BBC would be interested in this story but they aren't
    I had a gut felling that wouldn't be interested but it was worth asking
    if i lose my DLA that will be another £250 month loss to the household budget
    Thank god my illness prevents me from eating otherwise i would be really in trouble

  17. Thank you for this post.

    I find the whole thing so utterly terrifying that the only way for me to avoid suicidal depression is to avoid thinking about it most of the time. But I've written a post for today, and linked to this piece from it, because people HAVE to know about this.

  18. Sue Marsh

    Reading your post was a humbling experience. I shall send a copy to my lefty LibDem MP, hoping he'll keep the pressure up at Westminster and Cowley Street.

  19. Hello. I'm a new supporter. I was just have a few questions that I was hoping you could answer so I can understand better.

    1. Are these all the benefit cuts?

    2. I'm currently on JSA. That's limited to 6 months, so I'm not suprised ESA is to be limited to a year. Do you think contributory JSA and ESA should both be indefinite, or that ESA should be different, and why?

    3. How many people are on DLA?

    4. Which benefit rates have been frozen? I've heard that benefits will be swapped from RPI to CPI, but haven't heard anymore than this.

    5. The middle group for ESA that a lot of people are ending up in, the work support group, involves people who need some support but are expected to try to look for some work with help from the support, right? Is this support actually any good?

    6. Since people put into the work support group still receive the higher benefit, then what is the problem, since if they are too ill they presumably won't get a job anyway? Is the process of support so strenuous that it will make people more ill or something?

    Sorry to ask a bunch of possibly stupid questions but I'm new to this and want to be able to understand properly what's going on and what the issues are.

    Many Thanks,

  20. Hi Steve :)
    It's an a extremely complicated picture so much so that even my Conservative mp doesn't understand any of it and doesn't believe the prime minister does either.

    The only thing that is certain is that it causes endless worry for the sick and disabled who then go onto take their own life

    There's nothing the police can do about it either as the DWP are all powerful and call the shots at all times

  21. I know Access to Work has received cuts but where's the evidence it is likely to be scrapped? I haven't come across that one yet - all the others are depressingly 'seen it' for me :(

  22. Sue

    Fantastic article ... and no doubt you know, but in case you don't - Left futures has your link too.

    Syzygy x

    PS Still happy to do stuff re PTSD but it doesn't quite fit with this important campaign ... let me know if and when you think still think useful.

  23. Natalya -
    You're right, scrapped seems to be too strong a word. I'm learning every word is crucial, sorry.

    Syzygy!! I missed you, where's Ken gone too?
    Re PTSD, not too late at all and I imagine incredibly relevant to what we're all going through. Did you write it already? It would be amazing if you had it for this One Month Before Heartbreak weekend, but any time at all would be great.

    It was a true eureka moment for me.

  24. Sue

    I haven't gone away ... I've been popping in but perhaps not posting because you've said it all already and with much more eloquence. I'll do my best re: PTSD ... and ask Eoin re: Ken... I know that he misses Ken too.

    Syzygy x

  25. Sue

    I've done 1400 words ... do you want me to cut it down?.. or you could edit it. I know that it would be in safe hands. And how shall I get it to you ... If I post it on a thread, I suppose that you could lift it.

    Syzygy x

  26. That's brilliant Sue thanks so much!!
    Send it to me at and I'll post it.

    I might post it tomorrow, but give it to OMBH for tonight, is that ok?

    They'll be really really delighted!

    Can't wait to see it.

  27. Sorry for the delay in responding ... I've emailed the post to you.

    Syzygy x

  28. To answer some of Steve's questions:

    1. Are these all the benefit cuts? We don't know. There are other cuts which aren't really "cash" benefits - for instance charges for accessible transport being raised, availability of Meals on Wheels being reduced.

    2. Difference between JSA and ESA time limits. Disabled people have fewer job opportunities open to them. Last time I was jobseeking, of the thirty or so entry-level positions in the local paper, there were only one or two that I was physically capable of doing (and those were assuming that the premises would be accessible). It wasn't that I thought I was 'above' serving fast food or stacking shelves, simply that those job options were not possible for me as they would be for a non-disabled JSA claimant.

    3. Off the top of my head, there are just over 3 million people on DLA.

    4. Don't know. Hopefully someone else will.

    5. With a couple of heartwarming exceptions, the back to work support is rubbish and their statistics are dodgy as hell.

    6. The problems accessing support are myriad. If you're disabled and normally housebound and need to nap every couple of hours, getting into town to attend a day-long workshop can be a major expense in terms of not just cash but also energy and pain. There are also issues with many of the support centres being inaccessible to disabled people - courses held upstairs, lack of hearing loops, no toilet facilities and so on.

    Hope some of this helps.

  29. I hope these Tory voting fuckers all get run over and lose a leg.

  30. To Mary (in her response to Steve)

    Just to point out that many people on JSA have long term conditions and/or have disabilities and indeed many more will do after the WCA kicks in. They have many of the barriers facing those on ESA but less money per week and a shorter contribution based time limits.