Gie Us A Job??

It's in the news again. And not for the first time. In fact, I think politicians, or the media, or both, dredge it up whenever current affairs teeter on the verge of embarrassment. It can be guaranteed to divert attention away into a nice, noisy, wee stooshie. Actually, there's more than one topic but the strands are entwined into such a fankle. Disability's equivalent of the Midlothian Question. Namely, if all those folk claiming a fortune in benefits had jobs, the System would run much more efficiently. I mean, whoever heard of a politician using the system for their own financial advantage?

In another life, I worked. Full time; for years. When I had to retire, I found those deserts of vast, empty days stretching all around scary. Especially as disability, having taken away my career, seemed determined to do likewise with most of my hobbies. In those early days, I survived by continuing to live by a timetable. If it was Wednesday afternoon, then it had to be the ironing. Since then, there's been plenty of swearing, greeting and straight forward faffing around and now, some activities have been dumped, others are tackled in a variety of new ways. Things might take a bit longer, and there's usually a fair amount of slitter, but, overall, we manage.

So, perhaps it's time to do what all those striving for political correctness and equality advocate and breenge back into the work place. Especially as, contrary to the popular media, as a disabled person, I'm not rolling in dosh. When I roll, it's because I've tripped over something and, so far, it's never been a wad of fivers. Nor does disability develop simultaneously with an understanding of How to Fleece the State. Amongst all those public information pieces about the Digital Switchover and Family Credit, have you ever noticed one where the disembodied, cheery voice bellows, “Anyone oot there wi a wudden leg? Or a gless ee? Then, phone this number! Now!” It was over three years before I'd my finances sorted out and, then, only as a result of help from social work and the local welfare rights office. Writing essays on Utilitarianism or the Schleswig Holstein Question is a doddle compared with tackling a claim for Incapacity Benefit. And benefits, whilst gratefully appreciated, come as quite a financial shock after years on a good salary.

Well then, perhaps it's time to Be Constructive and, since getting on a bike is, for me now, rather risky, harnessing up Mr. Dog and setting out to seek employment. After all, nowadays, with all the technology around, there must be something out there which is both appealing and feasible.

Aye, right! Unfortunately, proclamations on equality are only part of it. An extremely small part. All this technology for instance. Most of the gadgets I use amaze the general public; which is only to be expected. If you don't need something, why should you have any knowledge of it? Then there's all the Disability Awareness Training. Instructing the rest of the staff not to feed Mr. Dog their surplus sandwiches or leave their handbags all over the floor or give vague instructions involving the word “there”.

However, it's more than that. Much more. What happens when one's essential piece of technology goes on the blink? Or Mr. Dog has an attack of projectile vomiting? Or, because of weather, or a transport problem, it's impossible to be at the right place by the right time? Are the able bodied members of staff expected to compensate for their colleague's disability? I know I can cope in my current life style. It's taken a long time, a great deal of lateral thinking as well as relying on the help, kindness and consideration of others. But at least, I can still run the house, eat a relatively healthy diet, be involved in the local community, even indulge various pastimes, all without recourse to anything more than the occasional gin and tonic. Throw me back into a workplace and I would be unable to do any of that.

It's time someone produced a clear, no nonsense definition of what can be considered as work. For me, it refers to any task which contributes to a sense of fulfillment, giving one a purpose to existence. And it will be obvious to all but the most blinkered and brain washed that this will probably have very little to do with money. They also serve who only stand and wait. Waiting for the computer to save the latest draft of a novel; standing on the pavement, awaiting transport to a committee meeting; checking the timer before removing something delectable from the oven. I wonder whether those who are so incensed at the number of disabled claiming benefits would consider writing “Paradise Lost” as a proper way for a former government employee to spend his time? Perhaps it's just as well the DHSS wasn't around in the 17th century!

© Charlotte Bennie 2008