I am scunnered. Richt tae the back teeth. It’s nothing to do with this damp, dreich weather. The days are lengthening; we’ve been up to our oxters in Burns Suppers and still, I’m none the wiser anent my eligibility for disability benefit. A trachle which began last August still unresolved. And just ponder, almost three thousand others in Galloway are tholing this, no matter the rest of the UK .
Mind you, these last months have not been unproductive. Hal and I have chattered our way through interesting yet previously unknown, disability web sites. I’m on familiar terms with both the local Citizens Advice office and the Legal Department of the RNIB, while the e-mails between myself and my MP’s Researcher have become quite conversational. Most importantly, what with letters and phone calls, the employees of many branches of Job Centre Plus are keeping busy. Not necessarily doing anything useful but certainly filling up their days. My section of our filing cabinet bulges. I’d quote some of it but virtually nothing specific to me is in Braille, only information leaflets, so poorly written such a term must break the Trades Description Act.
But it’s not just my continuing residence in benefits limbo which has caused my scunneration. Nor even the remarkably poor level of organisation shown by the DWP; letters from Job Centre Plus scattered throughout the British Isles; staff bereft of basic manners who obviously enjoy upsetting members of the public. It’s the manipulation of public awareness of all this which is so shocking.
Certainly, welfare reform features in the media, especially over these last weeks as the house of Lords, gallant old buffers that they are, dig in their heels and attempt to bring sanity and humanity to the whole thing. But, even so, the presentation is so slanted, it makes the Tower of Pisa straight as a snooker cue. Obviously, I find radio and television more accessible than other media and there are exceptions.
But, be honest. How often has Welfare Reform featured on news bulletins? And if it has, has it been first in the running schedule? The few reports I’ve heard have been shunted well down main news programmes; the items short, no time for in depth analysis. I have yet to find a programme of decent length in which the blind, the lame, the deaf, in fact anyone made vulnerable by any debilitating condition, has had a chance to present just how these reforms will deprive them of any possibility of a decent dignified existence in this so called civilised society. Instead, politicians constantly insist that they know what’s best for the electorate and us ingrates should shut up, go away and rely on friends and relatives to pay for such essentials as the weekly shop, the running costs for an accessible mobile, or even transport to the Health Centre. Never, but never has any journalist tackled a politician and asked where exactly are the jobs. Never mind asking how a person declared unfit for work in the past has suddenly become suitable for employment at all!
And, so far, nobody’s suggested this! How about every employer forcing any employee who developed a disability into early retirement being made to re-employ them in their old jobs? Making all allowances for accessibility. This won’t hoover up all on benefits but it would cut back the welfare budget by a good whack, After all, this is what the government wants. And all the building alterations and orders for assistive technology would instigate quite a boost to the economy.
There is however, a problem, and here I’m speaking from the blinkies viewpoint, if that isn’t an oxymoron. Would the general public happily set off on holiday when the plane is in the charge of a visually impaired pilot? No matter the emergency, who would undergo an operation under the charge of a surgeon whose Guide Dog sits patiently outside an operating theatre? The new Curriculum for Excrement, oops sorry, Excellence is causing enough worry without schools employing teachers who can’t see what’s going on at the front of their class, never mind the wee deils at the back. A shelf stacker in the local supermarket stashing baked beans, tinned peaches and dog food all together higgledy piggledy and upside down. The receptionist at the Tourist Information Office identifying local landmarks by the potholes to be negotiated en route.
Of course, this could be the government’s cunning plan! All the resulting mayhem and chaos will certainly take the public’s collective wee mind off all their other daft ideas!