The Living Wage

I wrote a letter to my local newspaper this week which I thought I’d share with you.  Ordinarily I’d say that writing to your local paper is a total waste of your precious energy because in the scheme of things it’s going to achieve precisely zero.  However, my local MP is incredibly influential and I know he reads our local paper every week.  He is Rory Stewart, former tutor to Prince’s William & Harry, former Deputy Governor in Iraq, Harvard professor  and currently Minister for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.  He is an incredibly intelligent man and is touted as being a candidate for future Prime Minister – I might even quite admire him if he weren’t a Tory and hadn’t recently voted in favour of reducing sickness benefits by £30 a week.  So I make it one of my life’s missions to educate him on disability issues through my local rag in the hopes that if he ever does become Prime Minister he might at least be informed on a subject he clearly knows nothing about.  Here’s the letter:

“On the 1st April the living wage was introduced. According to the Dictionary, a living wage is “a wage which is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living”. On a 5 day 40 hour week this is now classed as approximately £15,000 per year.   Unless you’re sick or disabled when the Government expects you to live on either £3,640 or £5,450 per year which is the current rate for Employment & Support Allowance. Obviously mortgages, electricity and a loaf of bread must cost a sick person less than everyone else. Why else would the government think that ill people can survive on less than a third of the national living wage?

This Government has done a wonderful job of brainwashing the populace into believing that all sick and disabled people are faking benefit scroungers, despite the fact that less than 1% of all disability claims are fraudulent. Developing Multiple Sclerosis in your twenties, being paralysed after a car crash in your thirties, having a stroke in your forties or developing Parkinson’s disease in your fifties are not lifestyle choices. No amount of “help and encouragement” from the government is going to grow back the brain cells of someone with early onset Alzheimer’s and make them capable of work. That is why we have a welfare state.

Welfare benefits are not hand outs. Most people who unfortunately have to claim sickness benefits used to work. They paid a National Insurance stamp. Note the word insurance. If we paid into a private insurance scheme for 35 years then when we claimed were told the rules had changed and the policy wouldn’t pay out we could take our case to the Financial Ombudsman and we’d win. Not so with our National Insurance. The Government can arbitrarily change the rules on what constitutes illness or disability and so stop paying benefits to millions of people who are apparently miraculously healed overnight.

The Government claims they do give welfare benefits to those “most in need” but in reality sick and disabled people are penalized for their circumstances, like their illness is somehow their fault. The top rate ESA of £104 a week barely pays most people’s grocery bill.

So, now the Government have made it almost impossible to actually claim sickness or disability benefits and are targeting funds to those “most in need” when are we going to see those “most in need” treated with some semblance of humanity and benefits raised so that they can actually survive, let alone live like everyone else?”

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