Following yesterday’s votes in the House of Commons to overturn the Lords’ amendments on the Welfare Reform Bill, Kaliya Franklin writes:
It’s been a long, hard eighteen months. Harder and tougher than I could ever communicate to you. I could try and tell you of the times Sue and I spent hours fevered, medicated and desperately unwell just trying to string together a few coherent sentences. The times we tried frantically to finish articles for newspapers interrupted by journalists, politicians or charities wanting us to help with research about issues they didn’t really understand, or the times we took turns to cry with despair about what was happening to our country which no-one but a handful of seriously ill people seemed to care about.
I could tell you of how receiving messages from people so terrorised they wanted to tell us their lives were no longer worth living became routine. Of sleepless nights fearing that the person had gone ahead with their plans, or even of the devastating night when despite the online community rapidly rallying help we heard that the prompt police response was too late and another person was found dead.
I could tell you that we always knew this to be an unwinnable battle. That very early on we decided that whatever dirty tricks politicians pulled we would not sink to that level. That we would always act with honesty, ensuring our facts were double and triple checked, that we would counter lies with integrity and truth. That the more justice appeared to be absenting herself from this process, the more we were determined to ensure her voice remained.
I could tell you all those things and more, but never would you be able to truly understand how much this battle has cost those who had least to give. We have lobbied, debated and pleaded, often ignoring issues which would affect us personally as we decided on principle that we would act for the the best interests of all our community, even if that was to the detriment of our own personal lives, financial situations and our long term health.
I could, but that’s not the most important thing to say.
The most important issue of all is the message sent by a British government to the British people. That disabled children who aren’t the most disabled of all will have their support cut to ‘justify’ increasing the support to the most severely disabled children by less than £2 a week. That newly disabled or seriously ill adults living alone will lose the money previously deemed vital to pay someone to provide care. That children with serious illnesses and disabilities will have their entitlement to National Insurance contributions removed. An entitlement previously supported by politicians of all parties as sending a crucial message of the inherent value of life. That people with serious illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis, early onset Alzheimers or cancer will, after 12 months, no longer be entitled to the financial support they spent their working lives paying National Insurance for if their partner earns more than £7500 per year.
I could tell you of how this was sold to the British public. A people with ‘it’s just not cricket’ hardwired into our DNA. Of how carefully, deliberately, knowingly successive governments moved from all agreeing that it was inhuman to demonise the sick or disabled to carefully, deliberately, knowingly, drip feeding a complicit media into a propoganda exercise stunning in its success, to label these very same people as unworthy of empathy, compassion or support. Of how calculated this rebranding exercise was to ensure the public believed the empty promises of ‘always supporting the most vulnerable’ because, after all, these people are mostly faking fraudsters anyway. Doesn’t it say so in the papers, on the news, even on the BBC?
I could try and explain to you that this isn’t about eliminating fraud, that this will affect you or your family when inevitably accident, sickness or ageing moves you from being ‘not yet disabled’ to ‘one of us’. I could try, but that’s the nightmare of 4am no-one wants to remember when they awake. I could tell you that understanding, that empathy, that sense of life altering devastation is an insight that will only come to you when it’s too late.
I can, with pride, tell you of a demonised community who have found strength in each other. I can tell you of how inspiring it is to feel the love and support of these people, and the awesome sense of privilege in witnessing the broken come together. I can tell you of the values we all grew up with, principles our ancestors fought for, our playground guilt as we were chastisted for hitting the bespectacled child.
I could tell you of how bewildered we have been to witness a British government act in a manner more befitting China. I could tell you how each deliberate lie, each serpent tongued statement and guarantee of consultation rankled and oozed. I could tell you that something fundamental in us was mortally wounded when finally we produced cold, hard evidence to prove the government were saying one thing and doing quite the other, to then witness the government’s nose grow proportionately only to its falsehoods.
I could tell you that actually, this is not about the money. That the financial cuts will be detrimental to lives, but that the message the government have sent to the British people, that the weakest, the frailest, the most vulnerable are no longer worthy of collective support will be rejected once that same public understand that message.
I could tell you all of that, but over the next few years you will discover this for yourselves. So all I will tell you is this:
Something fundamentally British died yesterday. If you thought it was already dead, think again.
© Kaliya Franklin. The original version of this post is available at www.benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com