I have a confession to make. Some of you may already know this, but for those about to be shocked I can only apologise and beg you to forgive me.
I have a crush on David Cameron. I know, I know. In my defence it's not just him but part of an overall sex problem I have - I'm irresistibly attracted to floppy haired, public school, posh boys with their cut glass accents and raging arrogance. Which as defences go is pretty feeble I admit. Like I say, don't hate me. It's very disabling only being attracted to men who's politics you reject.
Except.. you know, I'm a bit of a Big Society fan. It seems it confuses most people, but the Big Society is one of those really simple yet fiendishly difficult to define concepts we'd all pretty much agree with if we could just pin it down a bit better. Big Society turned up at my door yesterday in the guise of a neighbour wanting a phone number, who left instructing me to just text her 'Bad Day' when I need a plate of food delivering to the door at teatime. Big Society is the 'meals on heels' team who all cook for me, it's that lovely Richard who pushed me home in the pouring rain when BendyBus broke down, and that Mike I just had a nice chat with down at The Bench about how to navigate the mazes of changes which threaten to drown you after a life changing medical event. Big Society is all about communities pulling together, strangers smiling at each other, and relationships developing.
But, once Housing Benefit is reduced I will have to pay more* from my other benefits to cover the increased rent shortfall. That's assuming I still receive those benefits, am not deemed fit for work by the work capability assessment and reassessed out of my entitlement to Disability Living Allowance in the drive to reduce overall eligibility. Any of those things would mean I'd have to attempt to relocate to a cheaper area, and the big society so well built in my immediate community would come tumbling down. My mini big society works because it is provided by people not in full time employment; stay at home mum's supported by their husbands, part time workers, those in receipt of benefits. It would take time to rebuild elsewhere and only works on such an immediate level when there are enough people at home during the day to provide it, so I'd have no choice but to approach the local authority to seek that support. The cost in economic terms to the local authority, the NHS and central government would only pale in comparison to the human cost.
What Big Society is not and never will be is a replacement for state services. It can't provide wheelchairs to everyone, should not be providing personal care** support to anyone, and won't even steri strip the gaping wound caused by cutting such state services. Using it as a cover for such just cheapens something that we all know to be right and means I'm left even more disappointed by Dave than I am shamed of myself for fancying him in the first place.
Though I suspect I'm not the only one suffering from some self inflicted shame. Watch David Cameron every time a question about disability comes up. He doesn't just flush red on his neck like he does during PMQ's when someone scores a point, when the subject is disability he flushes red all the way up to his forehead and has the look of a man deeply troubled by his conscience. Because, give him his due, David Cameron seems genuinely and passionately committed to his Big Society and as a father was genuinely, passionately committed to the well being of his much loved late son Ivan. The increasing reports of families pushed beyond breaking point by the lack of state services feeling they have no choice but to place their children in vastly more expensive residential care must be a far more effective 3am wake up call than any crying baby.
*My current level of housing benefit is approximately £91 p/week
**personal care is help with activities such as washing, dressing, bathing or feeding.