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 http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com/2011/01/nowhere-to-turn-for-vulnerable.
-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 http://thebrokenofbritain.blogspot.com ) 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.