Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Please don't come in

EDIT: August 27th 2013.
Jamie Oliver has today launched into a tirade against "poor" families with large TVs. This sadly once again makes this post relevant.

I hate strangers coming into my flat.

I live in a fairly roomy ground floor 2 bedroom flat. It took me quite a long time to find as I needed somewhere which was wheelchair friendly and large enough for me to get around in.
At the time I was still working and so I wanted it to be close enough for me to get to the office in my wheelchair as public transport would have been a disaster!

I have now lived here for about 8 years. My landlord is a good one and the property is kept in extremely good condition and has been repainted twice since I moved in. I am extremely lucky as the rent was very low from the outset and hasn't gone up much over the years. My neighbours above me pay around £100 more per month for exactly the same flat. (I'm hoping my landlord doesn't find out!).
After 2 years (bureaucracy!) the flat was finally adapted to be almost fully wheelchair accessible (rather than simply wheelchair friendly) with, for instance, a nice level entrance instead of bumping myself at speed up a step with a kerb climber!
Although semi-furnished, while I was working I bought some reasonably nice furniture as well as some luxuries such as my tropical fish tanks, a nice big TV, a games console, a big laptop and a blu-ray player (I'm a bit of a techno-geek!).

I was lucky that I had a well paid job so I was also able to put a bit of money aside during those years so that should any of these things break down, or should I need to replace more essential things like my electric wheelchair, I should be able to do so at least once.
I am also in the very lucky position that other essential items such as cookers, washing machines, boilers etc are the landlord's responsibility, not mine.
The flat is kept clean and (sort of) tidyish thanks to the help of my carers I employ through the direct payments scheme through social services (although I would note that I have to contribute 100% of my so called "disposable income" from my benefits towards my care, which comes out of my DLA care component and ESA disability premiums).

However my illness continued to progress and my disabilities worsen. I eventually had to give up my career 2 years ago and go on benefits. My low rent really came in useful here as it meant that my property still came below the upper limit for LHA (replacement of housing benefit) even with recent changes. (Had I been living in my upstairs neighbours' flat, I would have had to move as LHA would not cover their rent).

But this is where things all start to go a bit pear shaped.
Newcomers to my flat are not at all impressed.
It is far too "nice" for someone on benefits, even disability benefits.
They are perhaps unaware that it is the landlord, not myself who pays for the decorating of my flat.
It perhaps doesn't occur to them that I NEED more floor space and that my electric wheelchair cannot negotiate most properties. Furthermore if I DID move social services would have to pay out to readapt whatever property I moved into with new ramps etc...
They certainly don't know how much my rent is, nor that for whatever reason it is very low and I am simply very lucky.
It doesn't matter, nor would it probably occur to them that not one of the expensive items here were bought with benefit money and that I would NOT be able to buy these things today or if I had been on benefits all my life.**
In fact it usually does not occur to them that I may not have been on benefits all my life but worked until just 2 years ago. Total shock and surprise normally greets the "revelation" that I used to have a "proper" job.

I very unusually had to use an agency carer today I had never had before. She said "what a nice flat" I had. After looking around she pointed out that although I was sick "I had a lot of expensive things around me". She then asked if I was on benefits and added she "assumed I don't work?..."

THAT is why I hate new people coming to my flat. I am now ashamed and feel the need to justify having the things I do, even those I worked hard to get and bought with my own wages.

This particular carer was perhaps out of line, but isn't she just saying what many people think but just don't say?

It keeps me wondering what people are saying behind my back.
Paranoid? Maybe. Realist? Probably.

**Not that I think people who have always been on benefits should not be allowed to budget and save up for something nice, but in my case I would certainly have budgeted very differently and probably bought slightly different items on the income I am on today.


  1. Even if you DID buy them with benefit money, what business is it of anyone elses? Are you supposed to just sit there and look at four walls all day? Let your brain go to waste just because your body struggled to get through a working week? That's a pretty good recipe for depression, isn't it?

    I'm guessing they'd be happy if people on benefits became depressed due to having nothing to engage their minds with, until it meant more NHS resources and money being spent.

    It's a bit cheaper in the long run, I think, to buy a luxury item than to face the dreary and otherwise unthinkable alternatives.

    Sorry to hear about your bad agency worker. *hugs* if you'd like one.

  2. I can empathise with this. I live alone in a council flat (which I got after losing my home after being attacked there) and I'm on benefits due to physical problems dating back to the age of 14 and mental health problems caused by that attack.

    My rent is lower than what I paid in a shared house 10 years ago but it doesn't stop people making comment about how nice my house is in a way that always makes me wonder if they are judging. My home is my most precious thing and what keeps me going when I feel utterly bleak, thus I've spent effort on it when I could. None of my furniture (except the sofa) cost more than £100 and I've had the telly since 1999. Many of the nice things were bought as bargains off Ebay or are gifts.

    I obviously missed the bit on the ESA form where you get your weekly money in return for handing back all worldly goods and wearing a hair shirt. I refuse to feel shame for keeping my house nice and cannot imagine how much worse my agoraphobia would be if I didn't feel comfortable in my own surroundings. And I will not apologise for that.

    Sends solidarity!

  3. I understand exactly what you mean, it's as though you are not aloud to have anything to show for your life just because you are now unable to work and need social security. Desperately need mass media showing positive side of things and how most receiving social security are like us and have had lives before needing help, we do have a right to have something to show for our lives. Prefer social security to welfare also. There are many positives of people receiving SS and how it helps those who need and deserve it, we need front page coverage and news stories. Don't feel bad though and it's actually nobodies business if you receive benefits or not.

  4. I completely understand, but what an upside down world when we feel embarrassed to have a nice home!! I also have a lovely home - a bungalow with a loft conversion, on which I am very lucky to have no mortgage as the last of it was paid off after my husband's death, when I was also still working and earning. And having the loft conversion means I can have lodgers, which help me to live. As you say, if we had to try to find alternative accommodation, it would be extremely difficult to find as accessible properties are a rarity.

    Providing accommodation for people upstairs and having my own accessibility needs met downstairs makes this nice bungalow a very efficient place for me to live - I don't forget how fortunate I am, but like you should have no need to feel embarrassed.

  5. I don't know whether to be sorry or relieved to hear that I'm not alone in feeling or experiencing these things!

    I should also add that I don't think people on benefits shouldn't be able to save up and buy any "luxuries" at all. Those who due to health and disability from an early age who don't have the opportunities I did to go to work should not forever be banned from buying all but basic essentials. Likewise those who end up on disability benefits later in life should not henceforth never be able to buy an entertainment item ever again.

    My point about the items "I worked for" was simply that had I been on benefits at the time, I might either have gone without or gone for something less expensive (for instance I would have satisfied myself with 1 smaller fish tank rather than 2 large ones!).

    The trouble is that uninformed people now make very wrong assumptions about what I can afford on benefits and go away with annoyed preconceptions about the welfare system.

    1. Thanks to all the negative news. It could be turned around through those means also, but would take money and/or persons on the inside will to do. Charities could do it, it could make a difference and especially with what is already done online. Everyone deserves a decent standard of living, not everyone can be reach, someone has to pick up your rubbish or serve your coffee, but they should be receiving a decent living wage.

    2. Was really tired when I wrote the above, excuse the spelling please, I'm turning red!

  6. It's like I feel awkward about the fact I have multiple PCs. Ignoring the fact it's because I never throw one away, and was working (and/or a funded student) when I got pretty much all of them.

    For that matter, what's with people upset about people on benefits having flat panel TVs? Can you even get CRT tellies any more?

  7. I have a decent sized house and a fair amount of nice things, mainly by virtue of the fact that my rent has stayed the same for the last 7 years, and I was lucky enough to get a few grand as an inheritance a few years ago (before I was sick). I can't pretend I haven't noticed people clocking my belongings and putting a mental pricetag on them. Nowadays when people come into my house, or I meet a new neighbour, I always tell them I work from home, instead of claiming benefits. I dread the day someone decides I have too many niceties, and tries to report me to the DWP.

    We shouldn't have to justify what we spend our money on - we are given money to live, and dammit, that's all we're trying to do!

  8. It's amazing to me how much people think they have a right to judge others, without knowing anything about their lives. It's like when I park in a handicapped parking space and get looks because I "look healthy." We all deserve to have our needs met and to even have some fun in life, and entertainment is no exception. If I choose to eat nothing but rice and beans in order to save up some money for a "luxury" then that's my business. And if I have a luxury because I bought it when I was working, that's my business too. That carer was way out of line. Being on benefits does not and should not mean living in a hovel in the worst neighborhood without any entertainment and sitting at home alone staring at the wall all day every day. That's absurd.

  9. Beveridge's five Giant Evils were Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.

    Society seems quick to ascribe - unfairly - Idleness to those with Illness and by doing so, showing Ignorance. 60% down and we're barely out of the blocks.

    Because of the three already addressed, though, anyone with a disability should presumably be driven into Want and Squalor by some bastardised means testing that can be done by a Norm? That would be indicating the behaviour of a sick society were it not for Beveridge saying precisely that 70 years ago.

    We've come a long way, baby

  10. Your carer was *way* out of line.

    You're not required to give her any information about where your money comes from. Even if you did choose to tell her that you were on benefits...you shouldn't be made to feel like she'd make negative assumptions about you based on that.

    They should be covering that in her training.

    *shakes head* It makes me so sad to hear to hear that so many of you go in Britain go through this. I'm sure it happens in Canada too, but I was lucky enough not to need carers for very long after I came home for good from stroke rehab, and lived with family for quite some time...

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  12. I would never go into any persons house and comment on the value of Their Property. I would however comment on things that were pleasant to look at or may enquire as to how certain things worked perhaps. Yes i am nosey but i wouldnt go into a strangers house at all, so they would know me quite well anyway. I was bought up to respect other people for who they are, not what they are or what they own.
    I think it was not a great thing for your carer to do. I think i would have told her straight out that she was being disrespectful and rude. Would she expect you to comment like that on entering her property?
    Mind you i still feel the need to stress that i haven't always been on benefits, that i really do have a hidden disbility, that is actually quite obvious to anyone who spends long enough in my company!!

  13. It's a terrible thing, I have to forcefully stop myself from justifying me owning or buying myself something nice. I refuse to justify what I buy, what I own and how I pay for my purchases. It's become a knee jerk reaction to start explaining how I have gotten/paid for my luxury - and non luxury - items. I now make an effort to stop myself before I even begin to justify.

    It's terrible that it's gotten so bad that this is a knee jerk reaction for so many disabled and ill people. Now I'm trying to unlearn it!!

    I didn't realise I did it until I got a small saving plan, one of those ten year endowments, paid out in April. I was going to put in all away and save it and was actually not going to buy more than a few cheap treats for myself until I realised I what I was doing. I was actually afraid to buy myself what I really wanted because I was afraid of having to explain myself to totally strangers who believe people who have to live - exist really - on disabled benefit shouldn't own nice things.

    It was a shocker to me that I was allowing strangers, outsiders, reactions to my owning such things to stop me spending my own money. Money that I have saved and scrimped for a decade.

    So, after speaking to my Mum who encouraged me to buy what I wanted with my money I ordered the iPad I had always wanted but thought I could never afford to own.

  14. i know what you mean, exactly. A friend of mine commented how many nice clothes i had!! I replied that yes, and most of them are years old from back when I could buy nice things. Any named brands come off ebay these days anyway, and I never pay more than a fiver for an item of clothing. I felt I had to hide the fact that I bought my son some bedroom furniture and bedding and myself a laptop with a thousand pounds my aunt left me because i was frightened. everyone seems to expect you to be on the fiddle. i just want to cry. a lot.

  15. I've just seen this entry. I remember when I was assessed for DLA at home and I got turned down and had to go to appeal. That meant I saw the doctor's report and was in for some surprises.

    I wasn't surprised that he thought there was nothing wrong with me medically. What was a surprise was the contents of the "other relevant information" box.

    "Has lot of books, magazines etc all neatly arranged."

    I read that out to my father, who nearly choked, since "neat" is not a word that anyone has applied to me for years. What struck me, however, was that, however "neatly" things were arranged it was odd that the doctor seemed not to have considered that this was a result of me nagging my husband to "put that book back where it came from." It doesn't usually work, but he made an effort because the doctor was coming - talk about irony!

    It's like all those people who say, "You can't be that disabled, you managed to get a letter in the post." I want to say,

    "Do you hand-deliver all your mail? No? You mean the Royal Mail carries it across the country for you? Good heavens, I find that hard to believe."

    No, my husband takes my letters to the post box, just as he brings the cups of tea to my bed and gets my books down for me (and occasionally puts them away again).

    Back to the doctor's judgement. What left me irate was the assumption that, if I was *really* disabled, I wouldn't have "lots of books." In fact I rather think that he thought someone who was a real case for DLA benefits wouldn't/couldn't read.

  16. @Vicky....OMG...you are saying you was turned down because "Has lot of books, magazines etc all neatly arranged." So, if we have half a brain we are not disabled....and from a damn doctor as well !!! Over 10,000 have died so far due to cuts and support being taken away ... wait and see what happens to them if they become ill or loose their job, sometimes I wonder if some realise that the system they are criticising is the very system they may one day need ?!

  17. I remember my daughter's agency carer returning to us after a month's gap and walking through our sitting room admiring our ornaments and wall hangings saying, "That's new - and that's new - and you didn't have that last time I was here."
    I inserted the incident in my daughter's notes as a gentle reminder for new staff to please respect our privacy and keep their comments about our possessions (old and new) to themselves.