Bureaucracy is the punishment for having the gumption to ask for support. Whether we need support from Access to Work, social security benefits, housing or social care, we must lay ourselves bare, on forests-worth of forms and in face-to-face assessments, revealing to a stranger everything about ourselves in the most intimate detail: our deepest, darkest secrets; our medical history; our finances; our relationships; and so on and so forth. We must justify, many times over, why we need the support we are asking for. It is a physically and mentally painful, exhausting, and demeaning process.
Why do we do it? Are disabled people all masochists, hell-bent on inflicting ever greater humiliation and distress upon ourselves? No. We do it, only, when going without the support is even more dehumanising.
After losing what little vision I had, and then my cochlear implant failing, I reached that point of desperation. I had a choice: I could go on living like a caged animal, trapped in my home, getting out only when, and if, my family came to take me out on their terms, waiting for food to be delivered, and feeling forlorn and cut off; or, I could submit to the interrogation of social workers in the hope that I might get a little support.
After a year of forms, assessments, panels, appeals, reassessments, and being made to feel a scrounging scumbag, I have my reward: five hours a week of the exquisite luxury of being able to go out and interact with people; albeit vicariously through another person.
The sun on my face, the wind in my hair, the space to walk, the numerous smells of the town, are paradisiacal after being caged.
Communication is such a delectation that the cashier who asks if I want a bag could be a lover asking for my hand in marriage. I can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the local market, eat healthily, walk and lose weight, and I can drop in on friends, family and old colleagues.
Any bureaucrat or Daily Mail reader knows this simple truth: anyone reliant on state support should never be allowed to go to the pub. But, it was doing just that with former colleagues that led to me being offered paid work. It is only part time, my earnings will be well below the tax threshold, but it will save the state approximately £100 a week in benefits.
The cost of providing my social care is £75 a week. The net savings for the state, therefore, is in the order of £25 per week. Penny-pinching politicians and bureaucrats, and Daily Mail readers, would do well to remember that allowing me a little life and enjoyment has resulted in a net gain.
Not bad: a healthier, happier person; some semblance of a life restored; and, a financial saving for the state.
This is the difference social care has made for me. What has it done for you?