I've written and deleted this Blog ten times or more. For the first time in a years, I'm struggling to find the words to express my heartbreak, my pain, and my disgust after last week's utter betrayal of disabled people in this country.
Perhaps this one comment will sum it up perfectly. And please note, this is not something I share lightly.
I led in bed the other night and all I could think is, "my wife would be better off without me."
I'd like you to think about that for a moment. I'm sure you can work out the implication of what I was thinking. I don't need to spell it out, I hope.
It's important to point out a few things from my own point of view. I am, usually, a very personal individual, where I guard my own financial details carefully. I find it deplorable that disabled people such as myself are forced to justify their monetary existence just because we must rely on the State. Nevertheless, I will dispense my misgivings for a moment.
I am on long term Incapacity Benefit - the benefit that it is currently being phased out in favour of Employment and Support Allowance (I am awaiting the re-assessment team moving me across to ESA) - at a rate of £108.05 a week.
I am also on Disability Living Allowance (DLA), with Higher Rate Mobility component of £51.40 a week and Lower Rate Care component of £19.55 a week.
My wife is, sadly, also on Contribution Based ESA due to a long term illness, and currently receives £94.25 a week. As this is contribution based, she has already had a letter telling her that from April she will be moved onto Income Based ESA of £32.43 a week. Despite dealing with intense abdominal pain on a daily basis, being virtually unable to bend down without excruciating pain and limited mobility, she has been turned down twice for DLA.
We receive Housing Benefit of £49.33 a week - please note that this does not cover our rent entirely and we have to pay the remaining £19 a week. Similarly we also receive £14.27 a week in Council Tax benefit, and have to make up the shortfall.
And that's it. No other top ups, nothing. Between the both of us - a long-term disabled man and a woman who is struggling to cope with both her own condition and mine as well, and all included we get this (yearly figures):
Incapacity Benefit: £5618.60
Disability Living Allowance: £3689.40
Employment And Support Allowance: £4901
Housing Benefit: £2565.16
Council Tax Benefit: £742.04
That's right, seven and a half thousand pounds lower than the much heralded £26,000 figure that the Coalition Government have been determined to splash around everywhere they can in order to justify their position and whip the public into a frenzy over "benefit scroungers". Of course, they always shy away from giving the full details, relying on the mainstream media to peddle their lies.
Oh, and don't forget - in April we may lose £61.82 a week thanks to the changes to contribution based ESA. That means that yearly total may be reduced to £14301.56.
Almost £12,000 lower than the £26,000 that's been much talked about.
Oh, and as my wife has just reminded me, because I'm on Incapacity Benefit we get no help with prescriptions, dentist costs or opticians.
I cannot even begin to express the fear that the next few months and into 2013 are bringing to me. The changes to DLA - moving it to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from April 2013 - are genuinely frightening to many people like me as discussed in this interview with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.
And it's not just disabled people who will be affected by the Welfare Reform Bill. May I highly recommend this blog by DarkestAngel32 for all the details.
The uncertainty is sickening for myself and thousands of others like me and worse. And I ask a simple question of everyone reading this:
Is this really the kind of society you want the UK to be?