I want you to imagine something for me.
Imagine that without a car you can never leave your home. Ever.
You can't use public transport, because you can't get to the bus stop or the train station, even if you could get your wheelchair/scooter etc on board. You're isolated, as family live in a completely different part of the country. Without your car you can't get to work, you can't see friends, you can't get to a shop. Without your car you literally become a prisoner in your own home.
It is no exaggeration to say that is literally the case for hundreds of thousands of sick & disabled people here in the UK. Wearespartacus.org have done a comprehensive analysis of the impact losing a motability car will have - those who are particularly interested in learning more can read our comprehensive report, Reversing from Recovery here : http://wearespartacus.org.uk/reversing-from-recovery/
Until recently, the Blue Badge scheme that allows people with very serious mobility impairments the ability to get out was a lifeline. To qualify, you must be virtually unable to walk. The scheme is certainly rife with fraud, but crucially, not committed by sick and disabled people themselves, but by family members who should know better or criminals who know that a blue badge is a valuable commodity on the black market.
For years, I have sent off my passport photos every 3 years, with £3 to cover costs & my new badge has arrived by return post. As it happened, in my case, my Mum worked at County Hall for years, so the badge office knew me well, knew exactly how unwell I was and dealt with my renewals quickly and compassionately.
Now, that - like every other aspect of support sick and disabled people rely on to get by - has all changed.
Last week I got my renewal letter and with it, 14 PAGES of information and questions to plough through and answer. The form itself is 8 pages long. You can no longer send off for the badge, you have to collect in person at a local library. If nothing else, just imagine how difficult that is going to be for some people. My library, for instance is in the centre of town with just three disabled parking spaces outside, up 7 steps. If you are housebound anyway, this new process will make getting a badge all but impossible. Ironically, the very people who need a badge the most will be the ones unable to get one.
The fee has gone up from £3 to £10 and I'm sick of politicians who don't realise that £10 to people living in extreme poverty might as well be £1000. £10 off ESA, £10 off the rent, £10 from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) £10 off social care - This is why we so desperately need a cumulative impact assessment of ALL the changes and why the government are so loathed to do one.
Most disgusting of all though, is the tone of the letter and renewal form. Like ESA before it and soon DLA, all are to be assumed guilty until proven innocent. Some examples - just from the first page!
"This section must be completed by all applicants; all fields are to be completed." "Documents must be certified by a person who has known you for a minimum of two years. They should not be related to you" "send ONE proof of address and ONE proof of identity." "DO NOT SEND ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS" "The applicant's name must be written in block capitals on the reverse of the photo" "Applications will take up to 8 weeks" "There is no guarantee that an existing Blue Badge will be renewed based on previous information provided"......
And on and on, making absolutely sure that the person so desperately in need is good and terrified. The more honest you are, the more frightening the form seems. Fraudsters and criminals won't even see these forms as the misuse of badges is misuse of existing badges, very rarely at the application stage.
Again, we treat 200 people as though they are guilty to catch the one cheat, we do not accept the one cheat in order that 200 people may feel secure and supported.
Again, we should be bloody ashamed of ourselves. Nothing sums up the mealy mouthed, envious unpleasantness of attitudes to sickness and disability in our society today than selfish gits who believe they are missing out because they have to park a few steps further away from a shop entrance than their profoundly disabled neighbour. The times I've seen people offer to trade their badge with some nasty little creep in a comment thread, in exchange for their paralysis/MS/Cancer, but funnily enough there are never any takers.
Who does it really hurt if people take advantage of the scheme? It doesn't cost anything, it only hurts the disabled people who can't park where they need to. Need to you note, not want to.
Society disgusts me at the moment.