Thursday, 2 December 2010

A letter to Ed Miliband

Cross posted at Rage against the Coalition

This is a letter I wrote to Ed Miliband yesterday. I don't pretend to be the worlds best writer or the most knowledgeable in these matters. I believe the majority will agree with me.

Dear Mr Miliband,

My name is Helen and I have Multiple Sclerosis. Because of this I claim ESA. I am writing to you because I am deeply worried about the cuts that have been announced by the ‘coalition’. They claim that they will support the most vulnerable yet the reforms they have announced will have an appalling effect on people like me.

The vast majority of ESA/IB claimants are not scroungers. We are honest, ordinary people with horrible, debilitating illnesses that force us to have to claim benefits. We know that there are people out there who claim the benefits they are not entitled to but they are a minority. We dislike the frauds as much, if not more, than everyone else since they give us all a bad name.
But labelling us all as scroungers is not only wrong, it’s unjust and it is making us very uneasy. Living life in fear is not the way anyone should have to live but thanks to the coalition and the right wing press this is how it is for us.

None of us asked to be ill, to have conditions that affect our lives and we would happily give up all of our benefits if you would take our illnesses with them.
Illness does not care what class you are, it doesn’t care how much your income is, what job you do, how many hours you work. It’s doesn’t care if you are male or female, young or cold, well educated or illiterate. It can happen to anyone, at any age, at any time. I never imagined for a moment it would happen to me.

Health related benefits should not be linked to out of work benefits. The help that an able bodied person requires to find work is not on the same level as the needs of the disabled. To try and force a disabled person into work that is wrong for them is criminal. Because their health will be affected.

The Tories and their rightwing supporters are selfish. They care only about themselves and money. And they assume that everyone else is like that, which is why they cannot believe that so many of us are genuine claimants. But being a socialist means you care about others, not just yourself. It means you look out for those less fortunate than yourself, even if their issues do not relate to you. You may not be disabled but you need to look after the interests and welfare of those who are.

Iain Duncan-Smith has told the world that unless you earn a wage you are contributing nothing to society. He has effectively told us we are worthless. We cannot depend on someone like that to look out for our welfare.

The previous Labour Government did nothing to help us. The coalition government is determined to punish us. Our hopes rest with you. I beg you to remember that while I may be disabled, I am still a human being. I don’t deserve to be punished for the crimes of a few. Being disabled is hard enough.
Please help to show the world that we are not all the same, that we don’t deserve to be branded scroungers and we shouldn’t be punished as such. I would ask you to meet with some of us. See our faces. Hear our stories. Gain an understanding of who we are and what we need.

Stand up for the sick and disabled and you will have our vote.

Thank you for your time,

Helen Thomas


  1. I for one will NEVER vote for either of them again -EVER - If I am nothing to them they are nothing to me!

    I did not ASK to become disabled - It was not a lifestyle choice - In a heartbeat I would go back to my old life - To be the old me - If i could be! And to be honest - Cameron has insulted the memory of is disabled child by acting like the disabled are nothing but annoyances! He disgusts me! They all do!

    What a FANTASTIC letter! I couldnt have written better myself I aplaud you and think you should send it to Cameron himself (Not that he would give a rats badoodah but...)

  2. That is a marvellous letter :) you have inspired me to follow suit and do the same thing, although mine will have a different slant (single parent) but I would happily take a cut in benefit to make sure disabled claimants get what they need xx

  3. Test comment, please don't approve!

  4. I support this letter and as person who has paid into the system for 46 years including 20 years in the Army, I am at a time when I need assistance to get through a difficult time. I recently had to go to tribunal to get this assistanc. I am not a scrounger I would love to be able to work but I am treated as a leper by this Government, they do not know the word empathy.

  5. Question. Do you get to fill out the ESA form on your own or do they make you do it with them when you have no time to think or rest, it seems very long

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  7. >> Do you get to fill out the ESA form on your own or do they make you do it with them when you have no time to think or rest, it seems very long <<

    The ESA50 form is 28 pages, it is mailed to you and you have (IIRC) a month to return it. And yes, it's very long, ISTR I took 8 hours to complete it. I recommend attaching printed answers as there is nowhere near enough space on the form if you have a complex disability, multiple disabilities, or just can't write neatly (all three of which apply to me).

    Apparently there is a shorter ESA50A form used for claimants they expect to be almost certain of being allocated to go into the Support Group.

  8. @ DavidG = Thank you

    I am seeing the job centre very soon and was wondering if they would fill out this form then and there or whether i could bring it home to get help to fill it out as i was too tired to even read it all, i am petrified of this and them trying to make me work when i am ill and cant if i could i would!

  9. Sorry - another question. If they think you will be automatically in the support group do you still have to go through a medical? Can they come to your home to do the medical? (i am so scared) If you are in the support group are you put through this stress making you more ill yearly ? Thanks so much

  10. jacky barfoot - long term sick activist4 December 2010 at 00:43

    i have poly cystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis and degenrative disc disease, with chronic long term daily pain, in 2007 atos took my disability away from me and left me minus money for food etc, i had to borrow from people, some of them drug addicts who had more money than me..theni was awarded £36 a week for 8 months while they gave me back full income support.
    then i became worse due to stress and not been able afford my special diet that was helping my hormonal imbalances -this led to my back becoming worse also, and then my parents both died with in 6 months of each other, who i was caring for while disabled, and then my aunt, all this landed me in hospital all last winter and then house bound and on crutches for 4 months..i also developed depression and panic attacks, but the gp wouldnt recognise these and would not send me for councelling even though i was breaking into tears in the middle of the day etc.. i stopped opening my mail, all official letters began to scare me as i was rolling into debt with been unable to get out to pay things at the post office ( i dont use on line banking, dont trust it) and my carer then found out he had renal failure at the same time.
    Has a consequence i was over paid benefits for 4 months, as by then my probate had come through and i had inherited my late fathers home - as soon as i was able to get out and about i went to the cab 10 miles away to sort this out, they gave me numbers to ring. i found out i wasnt entitled to legal aid because i own a house, i found out the benefits office wouldnt let me repay as i had to wait to be flagged in the system, the council kept paying council tax even though i phoned them, then my heating failed, and i had to use a large chunk of the money to have the chimney rebuilt, a new fire, new boiler and new pipe work and asbestos removed, also pay for physiotherapy and osteopathy to get me off the crutches, as the gp refused to send me and just wanted to fill me full of more pills to kosh me out - i dont want to lie in bed all the time koshed out and unable even read the paper -
    then my dla claim was turned down (august) and the tribunal isnt until feb and no one is helping me with advocacy etc - ive been left by myself, even social services ahve now closed the books on me -
    meantime, the benefits office contacted me, and are charging me with benefits freud - im not working, havent been claiming since april, apying council tax, paid back what was over paid, and now my savings are running low and i may be forced to sell my fathers home i live in, in order to exist after next year -
    i didnt ask to be ina gony if i pick up a baby, do the shopping, iron the clothes, wash the dishes - i didnt ask for chronic insommnia due to nightmares and flashbacks to caring for my dad and watching my mother die in my arms -
    i didnt ask to be born with hormonal problems that affect myweight, blood sugar and blood pressure -
    all i want is to be pain free, drug free and able to study and work - but my condition makes me unreliable and in pain and tired
    no one wants to listen, no one - and i cant see a future for myself anymore

  11. I work in benefits and all except a small minority of staff openly describe everyone on benefits as cheats, scroungers, liars, fraudsters and worse. They reserve their worst comments for anyone foreign or with a foreign-sounding name, single parents and those on sickness benefits. Anyone who says they have depression is laughed at. This is from the top bosses down to those of us at the bottom.

  12. Excellent letter - I'm about to send a similar one myself, decided to go for Nick Clegg.

    Out of interest, has Miliband replied? If so, what did he say?

  13. Well put Helen. Concise & an accurate portrayal of how it feels to be so demonised. Attacked.
    Jacky; I hope that life improves for you soon (i have severe endo & know parental grief too).
    Where are the charities increasing awareness? x

  14. What an excellent letter,putting down on paper what a lot of us are feeling.Yes you are right we didn't chose to be disabled and would change it in a heartbeat.Also I wish the media,especially the papers that are mostly right wing ,
    would stop there attack on the disabled,making us all out to be scroungers and worthless.I can tell you now that friends that I have who are disabled are very sincere and compassionate and try and get on with our very hard lives without an ounce of self pity.I do believe that Ed Miliband is sincere,hard working and hopefully with his new cabinet will be able to speak out against the injustice of this right wing coalition government.