My birthday improved no end over the two days after the actual day. Also, Steve and I have decided that we'll probably not make a big thing about his birthday in February, and just have an "official" birthday for the two of us some time in late spring/early summer.
Every disability blogger and their dog is doing a post about the current government/media demonisation of disabled people. I thought about it but wasn't sure if I could rustle up a whole coherent post about it. Here's the main points I would like The Great British Taxpayer to bear in mind:
1) Not every disabled person is on benefits. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest the possibility that there may be more disabled people who are not on Incapacity Benefit, than there are people on Incapacity Benefit who do not have a disability.
2) Not every person on benefits is a fraudster. I accept there will be some fraud, but that doesn't mean every claimant is a con-artist, just like one City businessman doing a phenomenal tax fiddle doesn't imply that every taxpayer in the country has dodgy accounts.
3) If you really know a person who is fraudulently claiming Incapacity Benefit - you actually know for a fact that they no longer have or never had the specific problems which they claim stop them from working, or you know that they are doing undeclared paid work - then report them. Please. You'll be doing us all a favour. The National Benefit Fraud Hotline is 0800 854 440...
3a) ... but please bear in mind that you do not have access to their medical history and that "disability" does not equate to "uses a wheelchair all the time". That there is a difference between managing to do something once a week (with a wheelbarrow full of medication, and time to both prepare and recover from the effort) and being capable of doing it several times a day every day. That some people have hidden conditions and look perfectly fit and able right up to the (unpredictable) point where they really don't. And that many people are using all their resources to cope with the basics of day-to-day living (bathing, dressing, cleaning, cooking, eating, attending dozens of medical appointments) and just don't have any spare for putting 37 hours of work each week on top of that.
You will look like a prat if you report Bob because you saw him walk to the corner and post a letter with no difficulty, but it turns out that the reason Bob is deemed unable to hold down a job is because TV screens, monitors and florescent lighting all trigger fits for him.
4) I've yet to meet the disabled person who says to me "I don't really want a job, I'm perfectly happy on benefit." What I have heard time and time again, are big long lists of types of support - not unreasonable things either - that a person needs to have in place in order to do a job, which no agency, scheme or individual seems prepared to supply. Simple things like "If I start work at 9am, then I need the carer who comes to help me wash and dress in the mornings to turn up at my house earlier than that, and they won't." Essential assistance and medical treatment for disabled people tends to be based around them being unemployed.
To be blunt though, I'm glad I'm out of it and hoping I can stay out - it looks like "getting tough" on disabled benefit claimants is going to be a big thing for the next election.