Dear Iain Duncan Smith, I want to tell you about me and how you changed my life.
I worked since the age of 14. I started off as a part-time waitress in a friends pub on weekends serving roast dinners. I always remember the thrill of being tipped £1 when I collected empty dishes. Back then that was a good tip. This taught me to save for things I wanted and instilled a working ethic into my soul.
I moved on to serving in a corner shop as I got older and then serving in the pub when I was legally allowed to. All the while I remained in school. I studied hard for my GCSE’s and A Levels until one day I walked into the recruitment office in Newport to apply for the Army.
This started a 13 year journey for me. I specialised in explosive military countermeasures. It was fascinating and I loved it. I took pride in my work because I knew it would save lives. I traveled and learned languages in my spare time due to working constantly with military from other countries.
In what spare time I had, I volunteered helping with learning disabilities. My life was busy and hectic but I loved every minute. I got so much enjoyment and I felt fulfilled.
Then in a blink of an eye (literally) it all vanished. I sustained injuries, catastrophic injuries that changed my life. It is not important what happened or where as I do not want to distract from the point I am wanting to make here. But I went completely blind overnight. I had to deal with this on top of other injuries.
While in Intensive care I suffered a major heart attack brought on by my injuries and my lungs were badly damaged where they will never fully recover. My whole life was wiped out but I kept optimistic. I was still alive.
Over the next 3 years I worked harder than I ever had in my life. Learning to walk again. Learning to live without sight. From dressing myself to making a humble cup of tea. I had to learn to read and write again using braille yet not once did it ever cross my mind this was it for me.
As soon as I got the basics covered I started to think about returning to work. What jobs could I now do etc. The DWP offered no help and treated me as someone incapable to ever work again, but I never stopped.
To cut a long story short I rebuilt my life and eventually became self-employed working from home. To start earning my own money again felt fantastic. I felt whole again and nothing meant more to me than restoring my dignity.
All went swimmingly until one day I am sat in my GPs office and my world fell apart. I had been feeling unwell for some time and now I was listening to my doctor talk to me about what lay ahead and listen to her arrange emergency appointments at the hospital. I had struck a triple whammy. One day I am going to the bowel cancer clinic, next I am going to the breast cancer clinic and then the skin cancer clinic. I sometimes wonder if all my injures were to blame but I faced it head on. After all I had been through worse. What followed was 18 months of hell.
Now I know you are assuming I am referring to how ill I was. The hospital and nurses etc were great even if the treatments and procedures were not. Even my housing officer offered to come with me sometimes so I would not have to face everything alone. But this was not the hell I am referring to.
The hell I am talking about is what you and your department did to me. The time I needed some help financially I was treated less than human. Once I had to get my local MP to intervene due to your staff laughing at me down the phone when I was requesting letters etc in braille.
I was made to feel humiliated on numerous occasions as I was literally begging for help to fill out forms as I could not see due to only printed formats available.
I would have my benefits delayed, not weeks but months to be processed and in the mean-time I had nothing to live on. I ran up debts for my utility bills and council tax etc and this confounded bedroom tax for a box room smaller than my toilet. When they were finally sorted I was sanctioned. Why? For spending too much time at the cancer units and not enough time looking for a job. Sanction after sanction after sanction.
It felt as if I had become an easy target for your staff to make up their numbers. I had to start selling my furniture and belongings to keep a roof over my head. My friends were buying me food to help me eat. My GP was lecturing me for going for prolonged periods without food. I am not talking about the odd day but 7 days at a time.
My recovery was seriously hampered by how ill I was becoming due to stress and starvation. By now I was sleeping on the floor as most of my belongings had been sold.. My gas had been disconnected so no heating or hot water. For several months I lived like this but it was spring then summer so it didn’t seem that bad.
Then winter followed Autumn and the temperatures plummeted. Whilst I had made a full recovery with everything else I was now in the cycle of becoming ill with chest infections due to the cold and low immune system from not eating. Then the cold came. I would wear 3 or 4 layers of clothes to try to keep warm. Sleeping on a freezing floor and [the] only hot meal I had was cuppa soups. My main meals were cuppa soups while you spend £40 of tax payers money on breakfasts.
After eveything I had gone through and kept fighting, this was my lowest point. So low that just a few weeks ago I took an overdose. The one thing I swore I would never do, I did. I did not want to feel this painful cold anymore. Cold that hurt you to your bones. I did not want my stomach cramping anymore from not eating for days or feel the humiliation of having to use a food bank. I just felt humiliation and shame for what I had been reduced to.
I am glad to say I am now self-employed again earning my own money. I am slowly rebuilding my home, replacing the furniture I had to sell to keep a roof over my head and having my boiler reconnected next week.
None of this turn around is down to you though. This is who I have always been. A worker. Someone who wants to be a part of society and wants to provide for themselves and I know I will be a success.
Life has thrown everything at me and not once did it break me or make me want to give up. But you did.
You made me feel life was not worth living anymore.
You and your policies.
You and your department.
- Letter author has requested anonymity.
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