...and so is my son. I've read and heard plenty recently that proves it beyond any shadow of a doubt. The proof we're benefit scroungers – well it seems the only proof needed is that we claim benefits!
Is that fair? Of course it's bloody not, but it's the way people are being trained to think about people on benefits due to the drip drip of lies (mainly from or led by HM Government) in the press.
Take my situation. I left school on a Thursday in 1984 and started work the next Tuesday; it was Easter weekend after all! I hadn't had much choice about it as although I was doing my 'A' levels my family couldn't really afford to support me at the time and my potential income was needed. Not a problem, I found a job fairly easily and was lucky enough to find it to not only be a fairly good job, but one I also enjoyed greatly. In fact I far preferred it to school and threw myself into it.
Over the next 20 years or so I worked at a few different places. Again I was lucky that I enjoyed every job and as I found doing nothing incredibly boring I worked hard. And I was good at it, good enough to regularly get promoted and also to be head hunted a couple of times. I was also lucky enough to be comparatively well paid for what I was doing, certainly well paid enough to have decent savings and to have bought a house. Basically, I played the game as we were told to play it.
In all that time I only had one experience of benefits. A firm I was working for went bankrupt and having nothing lined up (to say it happened rather suddenly is an understatement) so I trotted off to the local DHSS as it seemed the logical thing to do. I walked in on a Friday and filled all the forms and what have you. On the Saturday I got another job through a friend so on the Monday I signed off again.
Then my son got ill and I gave up work to look after him. That was 7 or 8 years ago. I never even thought of claiming benefits as, to be frank, I had savings and didn't need anything extra to get by. I did sign on at the local job centre, but that was simply for the age old (and now pretty useless to be honest) tradition of getting your stamps. I made my situation clear and was clear I wasn't applying for benefits or looking for work but after a while it became such a chore, and as I found a pointless one, that I stopped bothering.
Last year I started to claim carers benefit as the savings were gone and I needed something to support me. I've documented elsewhere on this blog the problems I had but in my 40s I was receiving benefits for the first time. And despite paying a lot of taxes for many years (never begrudged) and using up my own savings to look after Jr (which again I have no problem with) I get told I'm now a benefit scrounger purely because I happen to be claiming some much needed benefit at this point in time. The rather obvious fact that if I wasn't here he'd have to be in full time care at a far greater cost makes no difference to me being seen by some as a scrounger.
That is how ridiculous the situation is becoming. I'd say it's fairly obvious from the above that I'm no kind of scrounger and simply someone who need the state to fulfil it's duty of care to those in need. I don't even want to be on benefits – nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be out working every day but I simply can't in my situation. Simply by claiming I'm perceived by many as a scrounger.
So I've made my case. I think any benefits I receive are wholly justified and I think it's grossly unfair with my history to call me any kind of scrounger.
But...should any of that matter? Should the fact I've 'paid in' for most of my life separate me in perception from people in other situations? Would it be right to call my son a scrounger as he has never been able to work at all? Or if my son had a different condition that had presented when he was a baby and I'd had to give up work after only a few years should that make people view me any different?
Of course not. I've waffled on a bit about my history, not to big myself up at all but to make the point that people in need of benefits are not scroungers, regardless of their history. People with disabilities NEED help, and need more help than most people. People without work (and let's be honest there ain't a lot of it around these days) need money to get by. Carers such as myself need financial help. The benefit system isn't (and should never be) about getting out what you've put in, it should be getting out what you can't get for yourself and therefore need to get by.
Obviously there are some people 'swinging the lead' out there, only a fool would deny that. They annoy me as much as they annoy the most rabid Tory but they are by any measure a tiny minority and it's incredibly unfair, not to mention offensive, that people are now being branded scroungers and demonised purely on the basis of them receiving benefits without any regards to the facts of their situation.