The Mighty Logo

To Those Who Think Claiming Disability Benefits Is 'Scrounging' the System

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful for the benefits system here in the UK. Without it, I honestly don’t know where I’d be. (Yes I do, on the streets.) But what I hate is the stigma attached.

So here it is. I’m 30 and I claim benefits. I’m probably never going to work again. At the moment my other half is also claiming benefits. Why? So he can look after me. Previous to that he had a well-paid, full-time job. Now he’s stuck with the label of “scrounger.”

Firstly, I’d like to address my husband (and anyone else on a carer’s allowance). I’d like you to adjust your thinking a little here. If my husband wore a uniform and went around to a lovely old dear’s house five times a week, bringing home a nice little wage, he’d be employed. But because he lives with the person he’s looking after and gets paid by the government he’s a “scrounger?” I think not. My partner works just as hard, if not harder, than anyone else. He is here for me 24/7 and the pay is a pittance. Honestly, life would be easier for him if he worked. He’s given up a career he loved, and most of his social life, to do this. So please think about that when you assume someone who is a carer has the easy option.

Secondly, there’s me. I don’t work. I can’t work, and I’m not going to apologize for it. Why? Because it’s not my fault. It’s taken me a good few years to appreciate that I cannot control my health. I used to work. I had to leave when it was getting to the point of collapsing in my workplace and unable to function at home. Even after that point I continued to try. I would volunteer at my daughter’s school so at least I felt I was giving something back. But one afternoon in school meant the rest of the week in bed. I couldn’t wash or feed myself. I couldn’t look after my child (who incidentally I had before becoming ill, but having a child while on benefits is a whole other debate), so in order to function I had no choice but to give it up.

So now I don’t work. But, believe you me, it’s no picnic. Yes, I spend many days in bed. But it’s because I’m in incredible pain and sapped of every bit of my energy. Some days I make it out. But even then, with a smile on my face, I’m dizzy and in pain (which is the best case scenario). Just because I don’t work doesn’t mean I have an easy life. I’d love to work. I went to university. I was supposed to have a career. I had a plan!

But the thing is, life happens. Health issues don’t care about your plans. So please, have compassion for those of us in genuine need of benefits. I can guarantee you won’t think worse of us than we have of ourselves. I wouldn’t wish my problems on anyone, but remember, disability can happen to anyone. Even people who think everyone on benefits are “scrounging scum.”

Follow this journey on This Little Life of Mine: Living the Nightmare With a Smile on My Face.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: January 19, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home