I wrote a piece for the Guardian today http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/21/losing-benefits-for-seriously-ill?commentpage=last#end-of-comments pointing out that whilst 7,000 cancer patients will indeed be affected by time limiting ESA, a further 700,000 people with long term or serious illnesses or disabilities will also lose their benefits.
It was posted late last night, and when I woke up, it had already had 160 comments!
One commenter in particular asked lots of questions which I tried to answer with facts, but ended up saying that he had "lost all respect for my argument when I pointed out that my husband earns £19k a year. He claims.
"I really don't mind laying my life bare for you. It's an important point
19k is what my husband earns. He pays tax and NI on it. He pays VAT, just like you.
After tax, he takes home £1,280 per month.
We live in Sussex and our rent and council tax are £1025 per month
Our heating bills are £90 per month.
That leaves £165 per month to:
- Feed and clothe a family of four, buy cleaning products and loo roll,
- Keep a car on the road (without which I would be totally housebound).
- We consider a telephone line a necessity too in case I need an ambulance or emergency doctor.
- My hospital is 130 miles away, costing £60 in petrol every month for a round trip.
- We have to pay for my prescriptions which is another £42 per month. I have to eat special foods or I will die - not out of a whim or desire - and they are expensive.
- I have to pay 13.45 a week in childcare which is recompensed through tax credits.
- I get £135 per month in child benefit which I pay to the school for the meal some families get for free because I can't make them sandwiches in the morning. What is left goes in a fund to pay for their school uniforms and trips. They are not sick and suffer enough because Mummy is. It is their money.
Because my husband works, we get none of those things for free and no help with them. We don't want it. My husband has continued to work for 10 years when I could have claimed DLA and he could have claimed Carers Allowance and the state would have paid my rent and council tax.
The state would also have paid for my children's meals at school and free milk every day. Then there would have been the free prescriptions and help with travel costs to get to and from hospital. Crisis loans when I'm stuck in hospital for months at a time and my husband has to visit with the children. We would have got Income support too. And full child tax credits. There's probably more, but we just weren't interested.
My husband always said "If I stop working, we lose everything don't we? What does it say to the kids? We'll never get out of it." And we carried on, getting by as best we could.
We don't take holidays, we never go out we had to sell our house we loved so much to avoid spiralling debt, and still I am not complaining. We did it gladly, for ourselves and for our pride. (Oh, and I have the most fantastic husband & children in the world, so have little to complain about)
ESA meant we survived. Just. In poverty and because of the goodwill of a strong, supportive, achingly generous family and friend network.
It also meant I had some value in my own right. After studying for a degree, working hard through terrible illness for 10 years and raising two children, it acknowledged that I had some value in society of my own. Time Limiting ESA will mean that I am worth nothing. I must rely 100% on the charity of my husband.
My real heartbreak is that my condition is doing this to my family. We can't change it, there is no miracle cure (nor for those other 700,000 either remember) and I would give anything in the world to earn a wage. To use my considerable brain to get us out of this grinding, endless poverty trap, but my useless body won't let me. The 700,000 of us ARE reliant on the "goodwill of the state" and I'm fairly sure we wish with all our hearts it wasn't the case. "
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