Wednesday, 30 January 2013


     We all know that ATOS kills, but the most brutal and criminal aspect of their policies, is the fact that they kill slowly. We see protests, and we hear stories, but few of us see inside the lives of those affected. It is a harrowing experience and should bring everybody onto the streets in anger and with demand for real change.
This from a comrade on the front line:
     I work with parents and carers in deprived areas trying to help them ensure that they have the skills and knowledge to encourage their children grow into well-rounded and well-adjusted adults. Given the circumstances that some families find themselves in, this has always been a challenging job. More and more I find my time taken up supporting parents and carers as they battle enormous odds simply to be able to carry on caring for their children. What they are fighting is not the normal ups and downs of parenthood but the constant attacks on them being made by the very institutions that are meant to help them.
    The “judgements” made by ATOS in the name of their government have had a particularly worrying impact on the lives of many of the families I work with. Much has been written, in these pages and others, about the injustices being carried out by ATOS in the name of our government. When injustice becomes so rife, it is easy to lose sight of the human suffering caused by each and every one of these rulings. For this reason I would like to share some of my experiences with families claiming benefit due to ill-health. The details of the families have been changed but the circumstances are all completely true. All these examples come from one small group of parents who meet to make resources for the children in the local nursery.
     One mother who has been coming to the group for over a year has recently stopped attending. When I asked her why she said that her husband was “pretty bad” and she didn’t want to leave him in the house too much by himself. By “pretty bad” she meant that he had stopped taking his anti-depressant medication and had become suicidal (he has since been admitted to hospital). The report he had got from ATOS after his medical gave him NO points for any part of the examination. In his already low state of mind, he thought that his inability to work or even meet other people was not through a mental illness which could happen to anyone (after all the ATOS professionals had said there was nothing wrong with him). Instead he took the view that he was weak and useless, medicine wouldn’t help as he was the problem not an illness and that his wife and child would be better off if he was no longer around to drag them down.
      Another carer is in the process of discussing with Social Work the possibility of the grand-daughter she has cared for since birth going in to foster care. ATOS have declared the 58 year-old grandmother fit for work despite crippling arthritis. This despite the fact that her friends in the group regularly help her with shopping and housework so that she can be fit to look after her 4 year-old grand-daughter. Putting the child into foster care will break both their hearts but as the grand-mother says “What choice do I have. If I have to go to work I am going to be too sore and tired to make her dinners, do help her with her homework, take her places or even play with her. I know I get crabbit with her even now if I am particularly sore. If I have had to work all day and come back home in bad pain, I’m going to be shouting at her for everything. What kind of life is that for a wee girl?” The irony is that it will cost the state over £26,000 a year to keep the child in foster care. Everyone who cares for this little family are just hoping and praying that her appeal will be upheld and she can keep caring for the child who has never known any other home.
   One mother’s experience with ATOS left her so stressed that she has decided against appealing their decision. Having had radical surgery for cancer, she has a number of physical disabilities but the hardest part for her is the worry that the cancer may return and she will not be able to look after her 7 year old son who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Before her initial medical she suffered from severe anxiety with palpitations, headaches and nausea. As anyone who has had cancer will know, any unexplained symptom can cause real fear that the illness has returned. Because of her son’s condition and her own disability, this woman does get some benefits already. She has decided to try to live off these (with some financial help form her family for emergencies) rather than go through any more of what she found was a very traumatic process. However, as part of her economising, she has given up her car. As travelling by public transport is difficult for her, she stopped attending the group which she had previously found of great benefit to her socially and emotionally. I’m pleased to say that the few car-owners within the group now have a rota to make sure she can attend at least once a fortnight so however tight her money is she at least has some company. However, as she says, “it’s probably only a matter of time until they decide to cut the rest of my allowances and I don’t see how we can manage on even less than we have now.”
     When parents and carers are dealing with this kind of pressure, their children will suffer. They suffer through lack of money, the inevitable arguments that poverty brings and the fact that their parents are spending so much effort just trying to survive. These are all decent, caring parents and carers who simply want the same as everyone else - to give their children a decent home and a happy, secure childhood. These people are not work-shy scroungers - many have worked for years until circumstances made it impossible. Yet even in their poverty and stress they do what they can to help other people. In this group, they don’t sell things on eBay or Gum-tree, at least not until they have checked that someone in need can’t use it. They rally round and help each other as much as they can. They spend their time trying to make the nursery better for ALL the children who attend. In fact, had they lived in Victorian times they would have been given help as part of the class of the “deserving poor”.
      But it seems that under the present government one of the worst crimes you can commit is to be ill. The only contribution to society this government is able to comprehend is an economic one through paid employment. The political party of “family values” is systematically destroying family after family. And for what? As one member of the group asked “Where are all these jobs that they think we are all fit to do?”
ann arky's home.

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