Monday, 19 July 2010
Dear Prime Minister
Dear Prime Minister,
You don't know me, but then, in a country of over 60 million people I guess you can be forgiven not knowing each person, but I am sure that your advisor's and civil servants have neatly carved up the entire population into neat little demographics for you. So who am I?
Am I among the growing army of divorced men who are fighting an uphill battle in the courts to see and be part of our children's lives? Fighting against the adversarial system that pits one parent against another, that costs tax payers a fortune in legal aid, that some solicitors use as a way to guarantee an income stream? A system that fails not only the parents, but most importantly the children? A system that is under resourced in the courts and CAFCASS which causes cases to drag on for years, meaning that children end up loosing touch with the absent parent and all the harm that causes?
Am I a father watching his children being let down by an education system that is forever being tinkered with by politicians and bureaucrats in Whitehall so that schools find it better to push children down to ensure that the schools pass rates remain artificially high, rather than develop each child to their full potential? Do I sit and worry how they will afford to go through higher education and if its worth it, considering the huge amount of debt they will be left with?A father who has a disabled son who is being failed by schooling which assumes that disabled children need only survive not thrive, so he is now 3 years behind able bodies children when he is every bit as smart?
Am I a car owner who is left with ever increasing bills from fuel and road tax, simply because I have no choice but to have a car in order to take my children to school and do the basics in my life such as shopping? The roads I drive on are falling apart from decades of under investment, proper policing has been handed over to dumb speed cameras which catch people who on the whole are law abiding, they have tax, they have insurance, they have an MOT, and they have given their proper details for the penalty notice to drop through their letterboxes, while the ones who flout the law simply carry on regardless and put everyone at risk, and I wonder, how is that right?
Am I the son who worries about his elderly mother who is struggling to cope on her own because the council has no resources to provide home help for her? Am I the one who worries each time his mother goes for a shower because she might fall in the bathroom that social services say is dangerous for her to use, but the council say there is a 2 year waiting list for the modifications needed to fix it?
Am I just another voter who sees politics has become a career choice, and feels that all politicians regardless of their parties are just in it for the power, the money, the prestige. Am I one of the majority who simply wants to be represented?Am I the one who has no party to support because no party supports me?
Am I the one who hears of another death of a soldier and wonders why they were ever there in the first place? Wonders why our boys and girls are fighting a war on the other side of the world, a war that is un-winnable and was never winnable, a war that has made us less secure in this country, and a war that has cost us money that would have been better spent on education and health and pensions as well as costing us irreplaceable lives and leaving mothers and children mourning their dead?
Am I one of the long term sick who is a "burden" to the state? Did the state consider me a burden when at the age of 17 I started work, and continued in work until I became ill 20 years later through no fault of my own, when I paid taxes and saved for my home, and started a business and created employment? Was I a burden when I was able to help in my community and provide training to young school leavers? Was I wrong to believe that if I paid into the system, that if I should ever fall into dire straits, that the system would be there to look after me? Am I a burden because my body is not physically capable of even sitting or standing for longer than a few minutes because of a mistake that the NHS made? Am I a burden because the painkillers I have to take to stop me screaming in agony make me drowsy and sick? Am I a burden because I also have agoraphobia and depression and simply getting through each day for me is a major accomplishment? Am I the one you said should be made to go out to work, and if not should have my benefits removed? Am I the one who survives on benefits only because my family help me out with buying food and paying bills, but is having to see those meagre benefits reduced even further? Am I the one who receives less in benefits in a week than you will spend on lunch today, but am told I am unhealthy because I can't afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables to eat?
Am I the one who is a scrounger because I am disabled? Will the DWP outsourced ATOS medicals that are so flawed and skewed suddenly make my spine and back healthy and give me feeling in my feet again, heal my agoraphobia and cure my depression? Will jumping through the DWP medical hoops make my friend who is blind from birth suddenly see? Will driving the mentally ill to suicide achieve the required savings to the welfare budget or simply leave mothers shedding tears at the graveside of a life cut short?
Am I the friend who listens to a suicidal person at 3am telling me that their life is not worth living because they feel that society thinks that they are not worth supporting or helping? When they tell me that people throw bricks at their door, shout abuse outside their windows simply because they are ill with a disease that has such a cultural stigma attached to it that in the 21st century this still happens, is that the best of being British? Am I the one who fears that one day my friend will succeed and their life will have been just another entry in the suicide statistics?
Am I the one who is told that unless they take a job, they will have their benefits removed, though there are no jobs to be had? Am I wondering how out of touch with reality politicians must be to not have noticed this, politicians who know as much about being jobless as a fish knows how it is to be out of the water?Am I the one who is told by the national tabloids that living on benefits means I have huge televisions and live a life of luxury, or am I the one who has a 10 year old telly, a sofa that was given to me second hand, and that despite not drinking or smoking, I can rarely afford to buy fruit for my children let alone a present for their birthday, Am I the only one who is struggling to make ends meet on benefits that you want to reduce even further? I have nothing, what can I cut out of my life?
Am I the one who sits and wonders why the sick, the disabled, the jobless, the homeless, the low paid, the children, the pensioners, why I am having to make cuts in the meagre amounts we have to live on, for a recession we had no part in causing, a false boom beforehand that we never benefited from, and a future that seemingly has no place for us? Why are the bankers and the speculators and the hedge-funds and the brokers, and all those who brought our great country to its knees now not being made to pay for the mistakes they made?
Am I the one, or am I all of them? Mr Prime Minister, demographics might give you lovely statistical information about the generality of the people in this country, but people are more than statistics, and until you put a face to the categories, you will never be able to begin to understand the lives that we lead. Mr Prime Minister, to appreciate the value of your people, the plight of your people, you need to walk in their shoes. I would not want to inflict the pain of my spinal injuries on anyone, nor the paralysis or agoraphobia or depression or the side effects of the drugs I have to take, but come and spend a week with me, or even a day, live on my benefits and see through my eyes, then perhaps you will see another side of this country, and perhaps see me for the person I am, an ordinary Brit, not as a statistic, a burden on this country.