Are you fed up of paying your taxes to pay for people to sit on benefits?
When Charlotte became poorly, when she was lying in a hospital bed, staring fixedly at the middle distance, dribbling and with tubes coming out of everywhere, I was told that this was more than likely how I would be taking her home. That my happy, vibrant girl was never going to blink, swallow, speak or walk again and that round the clock care was going to be needed. The nurses talked to myself and my family about the care she would need and reassured us that nurses and carers would come and provide this care. At this time, I think I was supposed to feel better at the thought that these trained professionals who dedicated their days to caring for people in their communities would come to our home a couple of times a day and administer medication, turn Charlotte so that she didn't develop sores, apply eye drops to prevent her unblinking eyes from becoming dry and sore and to change the feed bag which was attached to a tube which went from Charlotte's nose directly into her stomach. But I didn't. I didn't feel better at all. I felt absolutely terrified. As someone who has grown up with family working in various roles and departments within the NHS, and as someone who thinks quite practically, I knew full well that there would be allotted times to visit and spend with patients in the community and whilst I am in no way saying the work done isn't necessary and brilliant, I worried that whilst I would be out at work, my girl would be lying in a bed, waiting for her time slot to have some human contact. I worried that my 7 year old baby girl who to the outside world looked gone, could actually hear the things going on around her and could think and react to them in her head but couldn't express thoughts and emotions or react to any of it and if that was the case, I wondered, would she be lonely? It was at this point that I said no. I said no to anyone caring for my child and I said no to going back to work and continuing my career. This was my child, and I was not prepared to let anyone else care for her when she needed it the most. I made the necessary phone calls which said that I was no longer going to be in work and I asked the nurses to teach me how to do all of the things that Charlotte needed. Obviously there were things which were going to require nurses to come in but for the rest of the time, if Charlotte felt scared or lonely, then it would be her Mummy who would chat to her, read to her and comfort her. At that point, now quite famously, I got into bed with her and sang her a song ...
3 years later and I still care full time for Charlotte. We've had some teething problems along the way and have discovered that the absolute best way forward for her is to be home educated and so I took on that role too. I provide my daughter with a safe, happy environment which is full of fun and learning and where she is growing in confidence daily. A place where she can rest and recover as much as she needs to, and believe me, Charlotte's recovery is far from complete. I spent just over a year co running the local support group for people who had experienced strokes whether having had a stroke themselves or as a carer for someone who had survived a stroke. I have campaigned for changes to the way in which children are dealt with in these situations and still fight to raise awareness of childhood strokes and brain injuries in the hopes of putting it higher on the healthcare agenda and make it easier for families to find and access much needed support both from healthcare professionals and other parents in a similar situation.
I have done all of this under immense strain, both emotionally and physically and with a great deal of upheaval to my family. I have done all of this whilst trying to grieve for the daughter who didn't wake up as well as feeling guilty for this because of course, the most amazing version of her did wake up. I have done all of this whilst suffering with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as well as carrying my daughters through and healing them at the same time. And I have done all of this as a single mother. A very, very proud single mother.
The sole thing which has allowed me to do all of this, is the benefits system. A system which has allowed me to simply be a Mummy. I have rarely been anywhere without my children in over 3 years and have absolutely, 100% dedicated myself, my actions and my every thought to my children and others in our situation who need some help as well as anyone who may unexpectedly find themselves in a similar situation one day. And I am incredibly grateful to live in a country and a society which allows me to do this as it has been absolutely instrumental in our collective recovery.
What hasn't helped is the attitude people still have towards single mothers and people on benefits, let alone, horror of all horrors single mothers on benefits! Every single day I see and hear how people are "sick of paying for people on benefits to sit on their a**es all day" or annoyed at "people on benefits who can have the latest phones" or "people on benefits who can afford a holiday every year". Whilst I understand that there are people in this world who seem happy to get by with the least of effort and seem happy to see others do the work, I would far rather that we dedicate a compassionate thought for anyone falling into this description. Maybe these are the people who have experienced far more than you or I could imagine and that these traits are actually survival skills learned at an early age. Maybe we could actually educate ourselves on the actual cost of being on benefits, usually a person's self confidence and self worth. Maybe we could stop thinking of 'your taxes' paying for us benefit claimants and realise that your taxes also go towards the roads you travel on, the emergency services which keep you safe and the healthcare which you all access free of charge when you need it the most. Maybe we could stop projecting our own frustrations in life towards people who are already vulnerable and needing help.
Oh and one last thing ... having held down jobs, sometimes two at a time from 9am to the following 1am since the age of 13, I have paid plenty of taxes for ME to access benefits when I need them. Not you, ME. Maybe if there are things you would like but can't afford, you should concentrate less on the things others have and more on the things you can do to improve your career options and opportunities in life while you are in the fortunate position to do so... Options and abilities can be taken away in a split second and I for one would like to live my life positively and without judging others without being made to feel like a second class citizen.