This is a Daily Mail link, thus the succinct and witty title:
The Conservative Government have an idealised view of normal families being wealthy, upper middle class, living in large houses with plenty of space, where everyone gets on well, everyone works and spends time outside the house and parents are committed to providing for their offspring for as long as it takes for them to get on their feet. Getting on their feet, in the mind of David Cameron, seems to mean saving up to buy a house (a neat trick at the best of times, let alone when you're poor enough to be on benefits).
I know a lot of nice families. I don't know any families like that.
My parents are great, but they didn't see parenthood as a lifelong financial burden and expected my sister and I to be independent. I started paying rent (though admittedly not much) at sixteen and moved out at eighteen. They helped my sister through university to the best of their ability but have provided no further financial assistance to either of us since. They are generous with their time and energy, I get Christmas presents I couldn't afford to treat myself to, but as far as they are concerned, they've done their bit.
By the time I was eighteen, I couldn't stand living with them any more. They were not abusive. They weren't terrible about my illness, but they weren't coping with it at all well, at a time when I wasn't coping with it at all. They struggled to see me suffer and half the time they treated me like an infant, while half the time they kept their distance and made it difficult to ask for help. They were, at that time, fantastically homophobic*. Both of them were also under a fair amount of personal stress; Mum's father had died the previous year, Dad was unemployed and I was frequently caught up in the middle of their arguments. And this was making me ill. It wasn't the only thing making me ill, but it was a big contributing factor to the suicidal depression that took hold.
As it was, I met a thirty-four year old man who took advantage of my considerable vulnerability - including my housing situation - and whisked me off to the other end of the country. This seemed like a really good thing at the time; I had a rock bottom self-esteem and was used to being treated like a child, so I wasn't able to identify verbal abuse, controlling behaviour or even the violence for what it was. What's more, being sent home to my parents in humiliation was used as a constant threat and since I couldn't live by myself, I felt this was my only other option. It was only much later, when I realised that I had friends and several family members who would be prepared to provide refuge should I need it, that I was finally able to leave.
I needed to move out when I was in my late teens. A change in legislation wouldn't have stopped my story happening, but it would remove a vital option from other young disabled women (and women who are poor for other reasons). Young and vulnerable women without any option of independent housing are going to be even more vulnerable to older abusers who don't have to work too hard to seem a more attractive option than staying with Mum & Dad.
The difficulties of living with parents are exaggerated for disabled people - folks who find it easy to live with their parents are usually extremely independent, able to go out whenever they like and only pop home to sleep off the hangover. When you're at home most of the time, need meals cooking, let alone help with bathing and so forth, there's far more pressure on that relationship. Some parents of disabled people are so used to being anxious about and protective of their kids that they take a long time to realise that their children have grown up. If indeed, they ever do.
That was my situation, but there are myriad other reasons that young people cannot live with their parents, apart from obvious things like having no parents or having terrible parents (who are by no means restricted to parents who beat you up - one exceptional circumstance the article acknowledged). These include
- Parents live in a house too small to accommodate you, e.g. they've got a smaller house now, Gran's moved into your old bedroom or you'd have to share a room with two five-year-olds and a budgie named Elvis.
- Parents' house is physically inaccessible.
- Parents' house is an unhealthy environment for you - I had one young friend with ME who wound up in a hostel because the noise and chaos of her multiple younger siblings made it impossible for her to get sufficient rest.
- Parents make it difficult to be yourself in some way (e.g. they disapprove of your sexuality, religion or lack thereof).
- Parents live in a completely different part of the country to where the young person lives and works. Not only it is perfectly reasonable that young adults move to other parts of the country, for studying, work or because somewhere is more suited to them, but it is even more reasonable that young people shouldn't have to move back - or indeed follow their parents around the country - if something goes wrong. You might have begun to establish a career in London, only to be unemployed at the age of twenty-four, and rather than staying in London while you find a new job, you have to return to Orkney where it is impossible to apply for London jobs.
When I was twenty-nine, I was forced to move back in with my parents. This situation changed soon after and I now live less than half my time with my own folks and the rest of the time with my boyfriend's parents - who are, in fairness, somewhat closer to Cameron's ideal, only without having any money to spare.
However, my parents struggled with this. They wanted to help, because I'd found myself in very insecure accommodation where I didn't have access to freezer space or a functional washing machine, let alone the help I needed. But they didn't understand why I couldn't get social housing with a snap of my fingers and move out again right away. They couldn't understand that Local Housing Allowance wouldn't pay full rent on any suitable place I might want to live - in fact, it wouldn't pay for any place I could reasonably live, such that I could afford to eat as well, in this not at all posh part of rural Suffolk.
My parents house is inaccessible, and while folk in other areas of the country can't get the basics, I've had to turn down all kinds of adaptations from social services because this is not my house and my folks don't want the place looking like a nursing home. They would never consider getting a vehicle that could transport my power chair, so I can't get out much while I'm with them and have to ask my boyfriend's Dad to help me on most significant journeys. And apart from all that, it's been a struggle. Not an insurmountable one, but a struggle, nevertheless.
This is a normal family. Some people reading this might judge my parents badly, but others will know how lucky I am that I've got a comfy room and a roof here and get on with them well enough that this is okay for now - especially as I don't have to be here all the time. But there is nothing remarkable about my situation or the attitudes of my folks. They love me and they have done their best for me. Even if they were to be judged badly for that, it's not something I - let alone my desperate eighteen year old self - have ever had any control over.
* They weren't as bad as all that, really, but I love my parents, and when I think about things they said then, when I was having come to terms with my sexuality in secret, I find it very shocking and hurtful. However, I know they could have been worse, and if they'd found out about my sexuality then, they probably would have dismissed it as an abhorrent phase as opposed to throwing me out or anything nearly so dramatic.