LETTER: Disabled are not ‘scroungers’

WENDY MacKenzie’s letter (Not “scroungers” November 4th) was a welcome ray of light amid the bigoted twaddle we hear from politicians and much of the press.

While there are many people physically and financially worse off than myself, Gordon Birtwistle and his colleagues such as Philip Davies MP might benefit from an example of one of those “scroungers”.

After leaving the Army in the 1970s I had always taken whatever employment was on offer to earn a living. Even when my physical condition started to deteriorate I struggled on for a further five years until 1995 when I became too disabled to follow my previous employment. I frequently worked two jobs and, when unemployed, undertook volutary work at a centre for the unemployed.

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When I became registered disabled I had a young family and refused to sit at home or be consigned to a telephone call centre.

I decided to enhance my qualifications and thereby my employability and took a BA Honours Degree in Law with Psychology and there were at least five people in similar circumstances on my course alone. I underwent surgery twice, completed two university certificates in Informationand Technology and acted, in a voluntary capacity, as a student representative/advisor.

On graduating I immediately enrolled in training as college lecturer/trainer while working as a part-time lecturer at two colleges.

However, thanks principally to previous Conservative education policies which virtually eliminiated direct part-time teaching employment in further education, I was forced to work through an agency which resulted in me, at one time, teaching nine different modules, almost the equivalent of three full-time posts, while on a lower hourly rate than my full-time colleagues.

This workload ultimately resulted in my becoming too ill to work.

After several more encounters with the surgeon’s knife and revised medication I became a part-time (six hours a week) voluntary advisor with the CAB in an effort to re-build my capacity to work. Although that aim was ultimately futile, I maintained that voluntary work for four-and-a-half years.

I was asked by friends and colleagues, for whom I had previously conducted research, to undertake the inaugural MA in Criminology and Criminal Justice at my former university.

Although this meant giving up my voluntary work I agreed, in the hope it would lead back into teaching and a PhD. While studying for this qualification I suffered a near fatal bout of pneumonia, collapsed lung and heart problems with the result that, although I completed the MA after an extra year the possibility of my ever being well enough to work is now vanishingly small as, in addition to other physical problems, I have two degenerative diseases and my lungs work at less than 60% normal.

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In the next few years I face more surgery and probably an early death so it is ludicrous to suggest someone in those circumstances is a “scrounger”.

I receive Disability Living Allowance which all goes to pay for a vehicle without which I would be housebound and rarely, if ever, see my children or grandchildren.

My wife works full-time but is nearing retirement and her salary just about pays the household bills. When I became too ill to work it also fed us, my Incapacity benefit being used to decorate or purchase items for the home. However, the financial incompetence of the current and previous governments now mean my benefit must be spent on food and we frequently have only £60 left to feed us for a fortnight while the house crumbles around us.

The Coalition, and in particular the Conservatives, have, since the moment they entered office attacked the disabled, painting them as parasites, as Ms McKenzie points out. One is forced to wonder when they will require the disabled to stitch the wheelchair symbol to our clothing in the same way the Nazis required Jews to do so with a yellow star. Or maybe they will ship us all off to “rehabilitation” camps.

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As Christmas and its traditions draw closer one is forced to realise that, under the Coalition, Dickens’ character Tiny Tim is chillingly close to reality.