My last blog post was intended to be controversial - and so it proved. I got more reaction than I have from any other blog post I’ve ever written, on any subject, and the Different Strokes charity (differentstrokes.co.uk) picked it up to use as a guest blog on their website and all their social media.
As a friend of mine, Paul Orangetree, noted when he shared it on his Facebook feed, “This is the consequences of current thinking on the subject of how to treat the more vulnerable in society”.
In the wake of its’ publication, I was inundated with stories about how disabled people (and as Paul also noted, you have to make this about people), who have been treated in the most horrific ways by this system.
What annoys me most about this tale, however, is how much it showed up the fact that if you are prepared/able to stand up for yourself, so to speak, you can win. The fact that 76% of people who take the Department of Work and Pensions to tribunal are successful must surely show how flawed the system is. Of course, people who go to tribunal are usually the ones with the wherewithal, determination and knowledge to know what is required. That wherewithal, determination and knowledge often means, therefore, that they are the ones who eventually get the money to which they are entitled, while others don’t.
I know that the process of arranging three appointments with the Citizens Advice Bureau, attending lengthy meetings with their advisers in three different locations, filling in and posting far too much paperwork and finding the necessary supporting documents was stressful for me, a highly-experienced journalist; what must it be like for someone who may have concerns about leaving the safe environment of their house, may have trouble writing or composing letters or for someone who may see the whole thing as just too much of a faff?
When I told a friend what had happened, he listened closely to the whole story then remarked: “You won because you scared them.” That’s undoubtedly true, but I cannot stress enough how wrong the system is when you can only win if you ‘scare’ the pen-pushers and bean-counters.
I have since been contacted by a friend in Wales who runs a charity called the Legacy International Group, which works to overcome the barriers which disabled people face. This saga has done more than anything to convince me that it is up to people like me and my friend, who can and will challenge the system to create real change, to do so in order to help and support our less confident counterparts.
In a way, it’s radicalised me; something which often happens when flawed systems are seen to be treating the vulnerable unfairly. My Welsh friend wants to start a campaign to change this system. I’m on board with her. Will you come with us?