Thursday, 3 November 2011

Disabilty benefit claimants, scroungers or societies helpless?

As well as informing people of how my Aspergers has impacted and continues to impact upon my life, I want to use this to comment upon issues that either affect me directly or interest me. I am currently studying sociology at Huddersfield University and sociology has opened my mind to the world around me and how I look and think about society. All opinions and views on my blog are entirely my own and are nothing to do with any person or institution whatsoever.

I am writing this blog on Thursday 3rd November at 5.35pm about a Panorama programme on at 8.30pm about benefit claimants defrauding the system and living a life of luxury. The reason for me writing it now before the programme is that I don’t want to end up ranting and raving, and would like to try and give a balanced view on a very emotive subject. This link will allow you to read about the programme on the BBC website:

The programme is concerned about people receiving disability benefits whilst living a life of luxury and even working. Now I am all for rooting out anybody who defrauds the country of valuable finances, but my concern with this programme and other media stories is how people on benefits are being portrayed at the moment. As I see it, the current government has very cleverly turned around the public’s opinion of who is causing the country the most problems financially from the bankers and banks whose reckless handling of money caused the current problems and are still living a life of luxury funded indirectly by the taxpayer, to people at the bottom of society on benefits who are now, it seems bringing the country to its knees, defrauding the benefits system and not doing anything of any benefit for the country.

What is worrying for someone life myself who is receiving disability benefits and trying to turn my life around, is that I will get tarred with the same brush. People will look at me and assume that I am also a feckless scrounger of society and by returning to education I am merely trying to avoid working, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Within my voluntary activities involving various autistic groups, I come into contact with people on the spectrum, carers and parents for whom benefits are a lifeline, not to a life of luxury, but to a basic standard of living which gives them the ability to try and exist at the same standard as most people do. Without these benefits many people would live a sub-standard life and would struggle to maintain a decent lifestyle relative to others.

Are people with physical and mental health difficulties to be expected to perform on the same level as atypical people? Is it a case of stop moaning and get on with life, because we are all in the same boat? Or by receiving benefits are people actually able to contribute more to society and the economy, but this is lost in the media frenzy that is currently sweeping the country, needing a scapegoat to blame for the financial black hole we have, that is due to a minority gambling with the majority’s money, using systems beyond the comprehension of most of society whatever the level of education, to fund their own lifestyle of luxury without any moral thought or reflection on the possible damage they could do.

It would be possible to look at conservative ideologies, but I feel that I have said enough already. It is clear that the current benefits system is not fit for purpose and changes need to be made, but it must also be wrong to blame a part of society  for a financial meltdown that was not of their causing, and to continually highlight a minority that are spoiling it for the majority who are trying their best to survive day to day. Or is this merely a society we are creating where the most vulnerable in society are made to be scapegoats because they are an easy target and by pushing them further down they will eventually give in, shut up and live a poor Victorian existence, day to day, hand to mouth hoping for the best but knowing that the best will never come.

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