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I cry, I become withdrawn, and on one occasion I had a seizure before the assessment began but the assessor made me carry on.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?

More about the author

Mx Steve Allen.jpeg

Mx Steve Allen - @ThatLooksQueer

Steve is a non-binary blogger, he runs his own blog - That Looks Queer! and is a @site_gallery volunteer.


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