This post is dedicated to One month before heartbreak.
As I was reading a blog post at Diary of a benefit scrounger just now I realised that I had forgotten to mention a very important point in my last two posts. The tabloids specialise in denouncing people for having fun while claiming benefits. I am sure you have seen stories in the past of people exposed for claiming benefits while being well. Tabloid journalists take a malicious glee in this sort of story. Neighbours report neighbours for trivial matters.
Those stories cause disabled people to live in fear. Fear that if they do anything seen as enjoyable, anything that pushes their limits at all, they will be denounced. They fear having their benefits taken away on the say-so of a benefit investigator with no medical qualifications and a report from a neighbour that knows nothing except that they claim DLA.
“So what.” you might say. “They shouldn’t have been claiming. They had it coming.”
Wrong. Nearly every time, absolutely wrong. DLA is incredibly hard to claim. The forms, the evidence required, the medical examinations by unqualified people with targets that aren’t in your favour, the stress in getting through multiple rejections to the appeal mean that just 0.5% of people receiving DLA do so fraudulently. Benefit fraud does happen, no one can deny that, but the amount of fraud is so tiny that you are unlikely ever to see it if it were not for the tabloids.
But does receiving DLA mean that someone should never have fun again? Of course not! For most of these people, enjoyment comes at a cost. A cost that you will never see. So do most of the household tasks that they might manage, so does going to work, for those that manage it. Every activity undertake by a chronically sick person results in a penalty from their health later. Going out for dinner costs health. Taking a bus costs health. Playing with kids costs health. Laughing with friends costs health. Going to college costs health. Going to work costs health. The thing is, those things are a persons own choice. Not yours. Not the benefits investigators. Not the nosy neighbours.
Take my sister as an example. She has ME, like I do. She came to visit us after Christmas, and she did so at great cost. Taking the train, staying away from home and spending time around people with little respite caused a great deal of harm to her health. She knew that it would take days to recover. But that was her choice to make.
So next time you see someone doing something that you think they shouldn’t, don’t make any assumptions. And when you or those around you become sick and have to make such horrible choices between enjoyment and health, you had better hope that others grant you the same courtesy.