Last week I tripped over on the way home from work and sprained my ankle. It was quite a shock and it took a few minutes before I was able to get up again. Thankfully, it seems to be a fairly minor sprain. Although painful, I didn’t have to visit the doctor and am assured by the NHS Choices website that it will recover fully in a few weeks. I was lucky that my injury is only temporary and relatively short term, unlike others who have long term, even permanent conditions that leave them in severe pain and difficulty in managing the everyday activities that everyone else takes for granted.
But I didn’t feel very lucky when it happened. I had to work from home the next day. We’re busy getting ready for a big conference and I felt awful not being in the office, like I was letting the team down. The next day, Friday, I had to ask my husband to give me a lift to the bus stop. I hated having to rely on him and ask him to make extra space in an already fraught early morning routine to ferry me around. My workmates were sympathetic, refusing to let me make rounds of tea and telling me to rest my ankle and I felt like a big timewaster. Why couldn’t I just grit my teeth and get on with it?
At the weekend the swelling and bruising really came up so I had to rest my ankle and keep it raised for a while and felt guilty as my husband tackled the housework singlehandedly, getting everything ready for when the kids go back to school next week. By Sunday it was feeling better so I was looking forward to a surprise birthday party we were throwing for my grandma’s 80th birthday, but I had to limit my dancing and was uncomfortably conscious of people wondering why I was ponderously limping around when I was barely a third of the age of many of the guests.
On Monday I decided to try and carry on as normal, walking to the bus stop, doing my normal day’s work and catching the bus back home. Though still limping and having to take painkillers, I thought things were going well until the bus home at the end of the day. It was running late so I knew it would be busy, but my heart sank as it pulled up full of people.
My ankle and leg were already throbbing from standing waiting, and when I got on there were no spaces except one on the bottom deck – taken up by someone’s bags. What should I do? Risk going up the stairs and possibly having my ankle crumple from under me when trying to get down the higher than usual steps while the bus was still moving when it was time to get off? Ask someone downstairs to move? But what would they think? Yes, I was limping but I’m otherwise young and healthy. Would they think I was being a prima donna and expecting special treatment? Would they tell me to stop being so lazy? Would I have to tell them all about what happened and let them decide whether I was ‘injured enough’ to deserve a seat downstairs?
I was lucky and the person with the bags on seat moved them to allow me to sit down, but by the time I’d got off the bus and walked back home my whole leg, not just my ankle, was shaking with pain and fatigue. I felt ashamed, embarassed, angry, hurt… and exhausted.
But that was just for a few days. Now imagine feeling like that, or worse. Every day, maybe forever and certainly for the forseeable future. Next, imagine that you have this feeling not just when you have to spend maybe 20 minutes on your feet to work and 20 minutes back. Imagine that you feel like that after 30 or 40 metres. That’s just over the length of a swimming pool. Twelve or so car lengths. Not even to the end of the average street.
Well according to the Government, that means you don’t deserve to have the highest level award of PIP (personal independence payments) because you’re too mobile. Even though your nearest shop might be half a mile away, down cracked, uneven pavements (like the one I injured myself on in the first place!) or even no pavements at all. No help towards a Motability car that can get you to work when public transport is ridiculously ill-adapted to your needs. Just the rhetoric that you’re a skiving scrounger who simply isn’t trying hard enough.
Even though I’m not fully healed yet, I am lucky, because I don’t face having my mobility and independence taken away from me on a whim, the goal posts for eligibility moved without warning or apology, in a mockery of the genuine consultation that people participated in. Reduced from 50 metres to just 20 metres.
That’s why I support the Spartacus Three. If you want to join me, then you can find out more about the legal action they are taking here or Steven Sumpter’s blog explaining why he decided to take action here.
Also, if you haven’t yet signed the WOW petition asking for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform then you can do that here.