If you or anyone you love has had to prove their worth to the DWP, you'll know what fear of government means

In 2014, Rebecca's husband Nick was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident

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The Independent Online

There are many things that make me frightened. Spiders; enclosed deep water; running someone over; being run over; being stuck on the hard shoulder at night. Having been burgled twice, I never open my front door without a flicker of fear that someone has done it again. I’m terrified that Nick will choke on something he eats, or one of the pills that he insists on swallowing en masse. 

I’ve been particularly petrified for much of the past week, despite the fact that I haven’t been broken into (so far, touch wood), haven’t encountered any tarantulas nor been forced to swim in a very deep swimming pool with tall sides. What’s scarier than all of those things? A Budget that sought to reduce disability benefits inspired by, it is alleged, anecdotal evidence from Department for Work and Pensions staff. As I write, IDS has left the building, and it looks as though the Government is U-turning at speed. But my panic is yet to abate.

If you, or anyone you love, has ever had to prove their worth - or lack of it - to the DWP, then you probably understand where I’m coming from. If you’ve spent an hour on the phone being told that no, actually, the money for which they’d said your bed-bound partner was eligible isn’t available, or that they need documents that prove your family friend really can’t go to the bathroom unaided, but no, you can’t email them, then the thought that the DWP can suddenly move the goalposts on what counts as a disability will likely have been affecting your sleep, too. That the points system which assesses people for their Personal Independence Payments could be changed so that someone has their disability downgraded is, quite literally, adding insult to injury. 

I could suffer a stroke tonight and be left incapable of speech, incontinent and unable to physically get into my own home. Tomorrow, you might be caught up in an accident that leaves you paralysed. Children will be born this week with conditions that mean they will need round the clock care for the rest of their lives. Disability isn’t just something that happens to other people. It happens to us. We are all, or might be, or might never be, disabled people. Nick woke up one morning with an exciting life and a great future ahead of him. By nightfall he had injuries you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. 

But until the people in charge know exactly what it is like to depend on benefits to pay for carers, walking aids et al, welfare reform needs to be done with and by people who have a disability. They and their carers must be consulted and listened to. It frightens me beyond belief that this Government tried to come after the country’s most vulnerable people and expected to get away with it. I constantly fight for Nick to get what he needs and if last week is anything to go by, I shall be battling on his behalf for a long time yet. It’s not the fear of god that will keep me going, but the fear of Government.