Stools: How UBI will benefit me
Post by ~ Mx Steve Allen
I'll bet you've never contemplated having to stare at a form and fill in how many times you shit yourself over the course of an average week, month or year.
For me, as a person in receipt of Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments due to epilepsy, I get a delightful form sent to me once a year asking me just that. It orders me to search my feelings and tell them how disabled I am. Often they don't take me at my word, and I have to take an incredibly anxious and often confusing trip with my mum by bus to an assessment centre. Here I have to tell a ‘health advisor’ what types of seizure I have, and what flavour of anxiety and depression I live with.
I cry, I become withdrawn, and on one occasion I had a seizure before the assessment began but the assessor made me carry on. One time my brother came with me. Afterwards, he cried non-stop on the way home and said “you're braver than you need to be.”
Personally, I think this system is bullshit. I'm angry at the fact I have to jump through hoops and prove my worth at every turn in a world obsessed with austerity and sanctions.
Enter a much more equal and empowering way to provide those in a vulnerable state with a means of support. A Universal Basic Income (UBI) would place the power in my hands. No more would I have to parade myself around like a freak, and be made to feel worthless and unable to contribute for fear of restrictions.
At the moment I live with my parents. It’s a major buzz-kill I know, I'm beating off potential suitors with a stick. I'm left feeling like the money I have is something I shouldn't squander or waste because I haven't earned it. It’s a ‘benefit’, and this internalised shame is something my therapist spent hours working with me to get through. It's still there and I don't think it's going away. I’m made to feel like an ‘other’ in a world designed around work.
The benefit system is specifically built around getting you back to work. At no stage have I felt supported to look after my physical and mental health. UBI would give me a feeling of empowerment: an income not a benefit. A safety net rather than a source of stigmatisation. It would also mean a greater opportunity for services such as charities and the NHS to work in a more supportive role, rather than a target lead quotient of how many people are in employment or training.
I don't want to be stuck on a zero hours contract forever and a day, or work nights as my medication make me drowsy. I'm sure people would care but no-one has bothered to ask. It's one more thing to add to the form, next to the fact I sometimes need my mum to watch me when I have a bath in case I drown.
I realise this may sound like I'm having a massive moan about my disability, and no-one wants to hear that. I like being able to work. I liked my job as a laboratory technician, up until I had a seizure in the lab and was deemed too high risk.
The medication I'm currently on causes lots of issues with my memory. I get mood swings and often have one hell of a headache. My right arm either grips so tight it won't release when it grips, or will go limp and cause me to drop whatever is in my hand. I can see why an employer would look at me and see a problem. A risk. Which is why UBI would give me a much less stressful way to find my feet, rather than the minefield of paperwork about whether I can use a microwave.
“16 hours permitted work” is all you can do without loosing access to benefit payments. When choosing to access volunteering opportunities, I felt this would be fine as it wasn't working. Oh no, I had to state that the role “wouldn't ordinarily command a wage.” What Orwellian newspeak is this? Chastising you for wanting to carry out volunteering that may lead to long-term employment and new skills, while wanting you to get a job. The system is well and truly broken.
It’s not all terrible. I actually managed to get a volunteer post at a gallery in Sheffield, and have my own blog where I write about art through my own queer outlook. I'm lucky in that I live with family who love and support me. Others are a lot worse off. But wouldn't it be great if we have something that, regardless of who we are or our place in life, was there for everyone?
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