2012 was such a wonderful year, wasn't it?
The Queen's Jubilee. Celebrated with the usual pomp, pageantry and a touch of pomposity, but with a surprisingly funky pop concert too. We even had that oh-so-British group 'Madness' playing loud and proud from the roof of Buckingham Palace. From the roof! And we all politely ignored the fact Sir Paul McCartney was way out of tune. Because he's kinda' royalty himself. And hey, even if you frowned on our quaintly outdated traditions or our out-of-touch royal family, at least you got an extra bank holiday that year...
Then the 'Friendly' Olympic Games and the heart-burstingly stupendous Paralympics,.Where 'Great' Britain beamed and competed its way back to just a smidgeon of genuine greatness and self-respect.
Ironic then that that same glorious year, 'The Welfare Reform Act' was passed. Lots of tough to swallow legislation was crammed in there, but the bitterest pill for all of us scrounging disabled's, was the shiny new 'Personal Independence Payment' scheme. PIP. To replace the Disability Allowance, or 'DLA'. The DLA those of us with permanent, incurable illnesses were told would be for life. Made sense really because we had illnesses that would never get better, would never be cured, and in many cases worsen. It's only a few quid a week, but a lifeline to many. For me, still employed, it's been the opportunity to top up my pension knowing I'm unlikely to work until retirement age, and that life after work will be tough and costly.
Now we were impolitely informed our 'lifetime' DLA wasn't forever after all. And we should patiently await a PIP assessment. With stricter criteria, chosen apparently at random, and ignoring both objective advice and relentless lobbying. Five years Mrs W I waited for the letter. Five years of anxiety and speculation. Followed by more fretful weeks once it had arrived as I painstakingly filled out the lengthy questionnaire. More ominous tick-tocking whilst I awaited an appointment for a face-to-face assessment. And then the most painful holding pattern of all. When would the brown envelope with my (our) results crash onto our doorstep?
Kaboom! There it was one morning and I opened it with shaky hands. Well, even shakier-than-normal hands. And what do you know? I was awarded the maximum allowance possible. Result! Yay! Phew! Hurrah! Wahey! Fantastic news! Etc etc.
Except no, not really. What was written down there was that I really am rather disabled. Very disabled. There's much worse out there I know, but I had been classed by the stingy box-tickers out there as rather in trouble actually, by any measure... More than my first time with a walking stick, more than my first time with a mobility scooter, the reality of life right now really smacked me in the face while I was already on the canvas.
I can still recall my first time in Costa, Leighton Buzzard, where I dared utter the words, 'slightly disabled' when asking them to bring a coffee to my table. Only half of the cup's contents would have reached my mouth had I carried it. Now I don't have to ask for anything really. It's all delivered to me, handed to me, carried for me, moved out of the way for me. And I don't like it.
Oh well. My pension pot will be growing a little faster...