I know my story to be just one of the many that hides behind the more obvious (but still often neglected) stories of people on disability benefits. The tragedy of our nephew’s life was that his own mother had refused to allow him contact with family who had experience of disability benefit applications, of the anxieties of the process and of available support groups and forums so well staffed by unpaid sick and disabled people. His family despised disabled people and campaigns for disability rights. He might have paid the ultimate price from stress and fear alone as many do who are helped by disability charities, peer support or the CAB but without a doubt, the callous attitudes of those around him to his health and his plight as a benefit claimant in a society that is so callous that it derides those forced to go through the processes described above and then demeans and devalues them further. Shy and retiring as ever he merely termed his despair and loneliness ‘depression’ in his suicide note, another failed and abandoned statistic in the psychological warfare upon ‘benefit claimants.’
I am disabled and on ‘lifetime DLA award due to NHS incompetence at birth that left me with cerebral palsy (CP). Two and a half years ago I was recovering from a miscarriage and my husband was looking for a new job that would enable us to leave a country that would try to force a disabled woman to have a termination of a wanted pregnancy simple because she _was_ disabled. Being used to the cavalier attitude of able-bodied people toward disabled people who presume to try to start a family, I was not as shocked as my husband who had never seen a doctor speak to a patient in such a way.
I was obviously shocked and upset by the GPs announcement that if I did not in her words ‘make the right choice’ and submit to a termination which was against both my religious beliefs and my belief as a disabled person that I have the right to a family life as enshrined in the Human Rights Act, and which in any case was an unnecessary pressure as like so many ordinary healthy pregnancies this one was unlikely to go to term for the simple reason that I am a human woman and one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage. I chose to pick up my life and think as optimistically about the future and to remind myself that I had been luckier than the millions of women who do terminate pregnancies unwillingly due to medical pressure or because the NHS presents all disabled women with this ‘option’ and all able bodied women who have any supposed risk.
Ten days later as we began to put our life together and to consider the options of whether to start a family and risk the shame and stigma of social services involvement, we discovered that my husband’s nephew who was bipolar had killed himself rather than attend a DWP compliance interview because of fear of being bullied after an abusive childhood over what later turned out to be a clerical error about his student loan.
Tragedy upon tragedy which nearly broke my husband and which has left me drained of confidence and unwilling to ever encounter a member of DWP staff. To think of the number of people who consider killing themselves before a DWP or assessment interview and then to consider how many deaths must be those of people who had they attended would have been shunted aside to wait in more dread.
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