Using my voice for good: let’s talk politics

Below I will be discussing the Rwanda bill, as well as Rishi Sunak’s planned overhaul of the PIP benefit and his statements on “sick note culture”. Before I became ill, I was involved in political activism. From the age of 12, I attended local hustings with my Dad and raised my hand to ask questions of those seeking to be elected. I always got picked because I was by far the youngest there every time, and when the microphone was passed to me, I would stand up so that everyone could see me and hear me speak loudly and clearly my question. Before I chose to study Medicine at university, I deeply considered going into politics to try to change things from the inside. My spirit is still thirsting after social justice and I can’t but help wanting to have my say, though I am usually not able to do so. Here are my two pennies’ worth on a few issues:

The Rwanda Bill being passed:

The UK High Court and Supreme Court ruled that Rwanda was not safe for refugees and therefore it would not be legal, under UK law or under international law and agreements, to transfer refugees to Rwanda.

Our government has sunk to such a level of moral turpitude and corruption that they have forced through a bill that says the opposite of the truth. As if just saying something makes it true. According to them, Rwanda is now a safe country to send asylum seekers, simply because the bill says it is.

Even when courts are now given evidence of the danger Rwanda poses to particular refugees, judges have no power to do anything. They have to effectively stick their fingers in their ears and pretend that it is safe.

As of 8 December 2023, the UK government had paid a total of £240 million to Rwanda, mostly to fund Rwanda’s economic development, though some was set aside for initial set up costs for relocating individuals. All wasted for a scheme that will not accomplish what the Conservatives want (the deterrence of refugees travelling to seek asylum in the U.K.). A few hundred deportations per year won’t stop people coming. They’re fleeing for their lives and have no choice. I would have hoped that our country would have the basic decency, moral values and compassion to not turn away those in the most dire need and peril. We have become a selfish nation indeed. There is no integrity, no sense of right and wrong anymore. Vote the Conservatives out.

Yes, times are hard for everyone. But it is usually the poorest in this country who are the most generous, with the little they have; they are usually the most welcoming to the stranger. The most in need in this country, they do not want others in the most need from other countries to be abandoned. They have more in common with them than out-of-touch wealthy politicians. Shame on our government for what they have done.

Rishi Sunak’s “sick note culture” and plans to overhaul PIP (Personal Independence Payment – a benefit given to those who are disabled and/or chronically ill if they’re eligible):

First, this is creating a false dichotomy between those who work and those who receive benefits. 38% of those receiving Universal Credit, for example, are in work, as of January 2024. Rishi Sunak is trying to create antagonism between those who work and those who receive benefits, even though these groups overlap massively.

Wages are often not high enough for those in work to be able to afford the risen cost of living: housing, electricity bills, food prices etc. Lots of people in work need benefits to survive and even then, some have to make the choice between heating and eating.

For the percentage of disabled/chronically ill who are still able to work, PIP is a benefit payment that allows them to stay in work. Being disabled/ill has so many unavoidable extra costs: specialist equipment, home adaptations, assistive technology, mobility aids, wheelchair-accessible vehicles, medication costs, higher utility bills as a consequence of an illness/disability, items specific to a particular disability/illness (e.g. incontinence pads and adult nappies for those with incontinence) – the list goes on. In order to stay in work and pay these costs, PIP is needed. Even then, there are barriers to essential services and barriers to employment. Companies are often unwilling to make reasonable adjustments. Without PIP, which Rishi Sunak wants to scrap, these people will no longer be able to work and they could well lose their independence altogether.

For those, like me, who are disabled and/or chronically ill who are NOT able to work (which can happen to anyone at any time), the loss of PIP would also be catastrophic. These payments are used to procure items necessary for our very survival. Taking away PIP might not immediately result in deaths, but gradually, it would. Probably quietly and out of the way, where nobody is watching.

Personally, without PIP, all the aids and items I need to stay alive would be taken away. I would have no way of going to toilet, for one thing. This is just one example amongst many severe consequences and ramifications of the loss of PIP, which would be disastrous. Many disabled and ill people are panicking right now as a result of Rishi Sunak’s announcement about PIP. We fear for our lives and quality of life.

A chief concern is that Sunak is proposing that doctors are to be stripped of their right to issue sick notes. Even in their overworked state, doctors actually don’t mind issuing sick notes. They are on the front lines and usually know who needs them. When people who are not doctors are given the job of issuing sick notes – “independent assessors” – who often have no medical training or they have to strictly follow quotas or are being incentivised and strong-armed into finding people “fit for work”, in the past has led to chaos, cruelty, absurd rulings and injustices. People who are terminally ill have been found “fit to work” by these incompetents.

Benefit fraud is very low (the DWP’s own estimate of fraud for PIP, for example, is 0.2%), especially compared with tax evasion and avoidance. It is ridiculously difficult to claim benefits and PIP. Long forms, requiring evidence upon evidence upon evidence from doctors and test results and other professionals. Many, like me, are too ill to fill in these forms themselves and need someone else to do it for them. Thankfully, I have someone. But many don’t.

Do not scrap PIP, Rishi Sunak, unless your intention is to gradually kill us off (‘us’ being disabled and ill people). At this point, I wouldn’t put it past him. He can’t seem to accept that there are people who simply cannot work. By taking away benefits (ESA, PIP etc) from disabled people who cannot work, Sunak will be forcing us into poverty or death.

It is no mystery why the number of ill people has increased. Covid infection, especially repeated Covid infections, has left so many with long-term health problems (including Long Covid), damage to multiple bodily systems and has put them at increased risk of strokes, blood clots, heart attacks, seizures and immune collapse. Also, because of the Conservative’s destruction of the NHS, wait times have increased significantly, so of course there will be more ill health in the country as a result. There is no “sick note culture”, just more very ill people.

Other issues:

There is so much going on in the world. I am powerless to stop genocide or climate change. After writing to MPs, signing petitions, and going on marches (if you are healthy), I don’t know what can be done by ordinary people with no power. We are left to watch in horror until it is too much and we have to look away sometimes, let down by cowardly politicians, who have no empathy, morals or will to help. We are left with an unfit for purpose voting system that needs reform to make it fair and properly representative. But still, I will always use my postal vote, for all it’s worth. What else do we have?