Alcoholic and drug addicts versus Blind?

Received from Pat Onions,

Ms Maria Miller, Minister for Disabled People has been widely quoted on alcoholics, the blind and DLA.

“Well, it can’t be right that we have a benefits system where, under DLA, more people who are either alcoholics or drug addicts are in receipt of the higher rate of disability allowance than people who are blind”.

 Her facts are totally untrue but it is clear to me that she wants to pick on one less ‘favourable’ disabled group over another. I am not sure which she was sticking up for?

Society has a stereotype picture of an alcoholic. Scruffy unshaven man dressed in mucky old mac, drinking from a bottle. Probably swaying along the edge of the road dangerously close to traffic. Or maybe asleep on the park bench with a half empty bottle in his hand.

This could not be further from the truth if you tried.

Alcoholics don’t choose to be the way they are. No one wakes up one morning, yawns, stretches and says today I am going to start on the downhill road. A downhill road that takes them to hell. Alcoholics are deceitful liars and very good ones too.

They will do anything to get the drink they have become dependant on.  It may start as a way of coping with pain. Pain from an injury, loss of job or just social drinking. The ‘feel good factor’ that any drug creates. Before too long more and more is needed to cope. That is when it becomes an addiction and they are dependent.

They come from all walks of life. Surgeons, ministers, politicians, housewives even our brave ‘War Heroes; the drink ignores age, sex, religion and jobs.

Alcoholics hide their drink from friends and family. Salad draw in the fridge, dog’s basket and behind the toilet system which is a favourite.

The illness breaks up families, loses jobs and destroys lives.

There used to be good centres run by trained psychiatric staff where they could go, when ready, to ‘dry out.’ They have closed long ago due to cuts. There is often nothing or nowhere left to go. There are alternatives to smoking, drugs and obesity. There is no alternative to alcohol except ‘cold turkey.’

There is the ‘social model’ of a blind person too. Usually elderly with a long white cane tapping nervously along the middle of the pavement. Alternatively, a guide dog, dark glasses and possibly an arm tucked into a companion. Looks can be deceptive and not all fit this model.

So many things can cause blindness. Hereditary, accident or old age macular degeneration which is the largest and most common group.  Whatever the cause, it is the hardest sense to lose and one of the most frightening disabilities to live with and manage. Just put a paper bag over your head for an hour.

It was many years before it was accepted as a ‘physical disability.’ Somehow it was separated from your run of the mill missing limbs, broken backs, etc. Even now, unless you have something else wrong with you, you are not going to get any help.

Yes you can bathe but you can’t tell which is bubble bath and which is all over body cream. You can wash your hair but ever tried doing it with moisturising cream and not shampoo? Yes you can walk but you can’t see the endless street furniture, cars parked on pavements (dangerous for them to park on the road,) or cross the lights where sight is needed to see little green man.

You cannot operate the washing machine, cooker or central heating boiler. Neither can you make a cuppa. Oh yes you get given, if you are lucky, a liquid level indicator and tipper kettle.

You are classed as illiterate because you can neither read nor write. One of the basic human rights for everybody.

You cannot see your husband grow old or your children grow up. You are never safe nor ever have the independence we keep being told about.

Neither group get the help and support they need to function as a ‘normal’ human being in society.

Like alcoholics there is no pills or potions to take. Maybe a drink could help? Maybe that is where ‘blind drunk’ comes from?

So alcoholic versus the blind?

With their own determination, help, love and support of friends and family, alcoholics can and do overcome their illness.

My sight loss is irreversible and will be with me until I die. Like an alcoholic I have determination, love and support of friends and family. This will never get me better but it helps me live as normal a life as I can.

I find Ms Miller’s comparison deeply hurtful when I know every day is a struggle and a challenge.

The Minister for Disabled People was wrong to make this comparison She should listen to us all and not try and divide us. We are stronger than they realise and will fight on.

All disabled people need support and this Welfare Reform is unjust and deeply flawed. It lacks any thought or compassion as to its outcome.

The Broken Of Britain – Call for investigation of Maria Miller

Full fact  – Disability Living Allowance: are alcoholics and drug addicts better off than the blind?


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