I don’t know if I’m just taking more notice now, but recently there seems to be a lot of negativity around disability, particularly relating to benefits. I am one of the many in this country who would not be able to live were it not for government assistance. You have no idea how incredible grateful I am for this help. I do not take it for granted and I don’t see it as an entitlement.
Up until a few years ago, I worked and have always worked. Often I used to take my son into work with me in order to ensure I hit deadlines. When I started getting poorly, I had to give up work as I was unable to guarantee deadlines and my cognitive function became impaired so I was more confused than ever! I survived for nearly 4 years with very little help but in that time I lost my house and became riddled with debt. At the point I decided I had to ask for help, I was literally counting pennies and deciding if we could buy milk that day or not. I couldn’t sleep for the worry. I had bailiffs turn up to my door. I spent most days in tears and yes, I considered ending my life. My house had no carpets, I had to buy second hand uniform for my son, my son couldn’t go on some school trips because I couldn’t afford it.
I am proud and not very good at asking for help but I also found that there was a massive stigma attached to going into the benefits system. Every day we hear headlines about benefit cheats and scroungers. I didn’t want to be one of those but times were desperate. As soon as I contacted the Citizens Advice Bureau, I felt as though a weight had been lifted. I was advised of all the benefits the family could claim, help available to manage my debt and food vouchers for the local food bank. I don’t think I can find the words to describe my relief but it made me feel positive for the first time in a long time and I was able to sleep at night.
This all happened in 2015 and I am pleased to say that I am now debt free and living comfortably within my means. I don’t go on holiday, I don’t have the latest phone, I don’t have the latest games console. What I do have is money to feed my family and a Motability car, without which I would be lost as I become less and less mobile.
It has taken me until 2017 to write this post as I am expecting a backlash from it and only now do I think I am able to cope with that. There is a lot of judgement out there and I still find myself apologising for having to use the benefits system. I know that there are a lot of people who do abuse the system and that is the main reason that it is tainted, but I’m writing this to let you know that we are not all like that. I am sorry that my circumstances have meant that I am using precious government money but I can not stress enough what a lifeline this has been to me and my family.
The system has stopped me living in the very dark shadows, something which I will be eternally grateful for.