Lynn Schreiber

Lynn Schreiber has written 3 posts for

Finding Perspective

Lost: Sense of Perspective. Last seen somewhere between problems and issues. If found, please return to MmeLindor, c/o CamelsHump

Have you ever lost perspective and suddenly found it again?

I did this week. I was having one of those days, when everything seemed to go wrong. I was cross and irritated, and settled down to see what my friends were up to on Facebook. Distracted, I scrolled through the posts, stopping suddenly when I saw this drawing by an eight year old girl. It’s the kind of drawing that any eight year old would draw. Except this girl was not asking for a Nintendo DS or a fun day out.

Picture drawn by Aillidh, a young sufferer of leukemia

All she wants is to be better. To be well. To be healthy.

Aillidh is eight years old and seriously ill. As ill as a little girl can get. She has Acute Myeloid Leukaemia and is going through her third chemotherapy session.  She desperately needs a bone marrow transplant.  Her parents are appealing, through their Facebook page and elsewhere, to find a donor.

Aillidh is a blend of white Scottish and Mestizo – the mix of European and indigenous N. American peoples (Native American/Indian). Her type is very hard to match so for this reason it is important that her story is shared throughout Europe and America. It is particularly difficult to find matches for mixed race patients. So, the more people who sign up to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register (or in the US Be The Match website), the better chance Aillidh has of finding a match.

Some worry, like I did, about signing up to the register, as the procedure is rumoured to be very painful. I was reassured by this quote from the Anthony Nolan Trust website:

Myth: Donating blood stem cells is painful.

Reality: People who have donated via the bone marrow method compared the after-effects to a hard game of football. Many donors find the experience fulfilling and for some, it’s life-changing.

Donation can be done via surgery or a simple blood transfusion – the doctor of the recipient advises on this, but the final decision is made by the donor.

So this week, I found my sense of perspective. Nothing in my life is close to the horror that Aillidh’s parents are going through. This sense of perspective does not lessen my problems, they still exist after all, but they are manageable.

I ask you to do the same. Sit down and count your blessings.

If you are on Facebook, please *like* Aillidh’s page and pass it on to your friends. If you are on Twitter, pass it on. Email your friends and family, particularly those in the US and ask them to pass the FB page on. The more people sign up as a potential donor, the higher the chance is of finding a match for Aillidh or for one of the other Leukaemia sufferers around the world.

In addition to this appeal, Charlie Brooker, of all people, has urged YouTubers to sign up to the Anthony Nolan Register. Click here to watch it.

The Government Didn’t Inhale DLA … And Other Lies

When the government proposed to change the benefit system, from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment, a consultation period was begun.

The government itself has a code of practice for consultations, that it has quite clearly broken. It was two weeks shorter than recommended and took place over the Christmas holidays of 2010/2011. It was also not completed by the time the Welfare Bill was presented to Parliament, so it is clear that it was not taken fully into account.

This was not simply asking a bunch of people, this was a consultation based on the answers from 523 groups – local authorities, national charities, legal groups, user led organisations, health care professionals and businesses.

The government claims that the proposed changes to DLA to PIP has the support of a wide range of the public, and that they have consulted disability campaigners and charities.

It is a bit reminiscent of the old, “I did not inhale” excuse.

We consulted, but we did not listen.Raised hands, voting

Since the government was not willing to use the responses gathered during the consultation period, a group of campaigners decided to do so. They raised the funding through donations and requested the documents needed through the Freedom of Information Act.

What a surprise it was for them to read the statement from  London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson:

The Mayor would call for the Government to retain the (current) three-month qualifying period, as the increase to six months will mean that people with fluctuating conditions have increased difficulty meeting the qualifying period.

People with fluctuating conditions face the same barriers that all disabled face in relation to higher costs of living, and DLA is essential to maintain a decent quality of life.
The Government proposes imposing penalties if disabled people do not inform the Government of changes in their circumstances.
 ‘However, the overall fraud rate for DLA is less than 0.5 per cent. For those with fluctuating conditions, asking them to report every change to their condition would prove very stressful.

Further, the campaigners found that the other respondents were almost unanimous in their response to some points, and that

  • 74% of respondents were against the proposals but open to discussion
  • 19% had mixed views, agreeing with parts of the proposal
  •  Only 7% supported them fully.

Several points were raised by many respondents, including that the government’s motivation in proposing these reforms were perceived to be a saving 20% of disability benefits. When the overall fraud rate of DLA being estimated at 0,5%, surely it is clear that this will cut benefits from those who need it.

So why was the bill allowed to go ahead, with the government asserting that the proposals were supported by disabled groups?

Please read the Spartacus Report and pass it on to your friends and family (although I expect they will read about it in the newspapers).

I would like to point out several issues  that are often misunderstood by the general public.

1. DLA is an in work benefit. It aims to assist the disabled person in his or her daily life and often provides the means for them to be able to work

2. DLA is a highly efficient benefit, in that it saves the tax payer money. For every disabled person who is able to work because of the support, the country “earn” taxes.

3. DLA is not given out easily. It is a long and difficult process, and even someone as ill as Sue Marsh can fail to be awarded DLA

4. DLA does not automatically mean that the recipient gets a “free car”. Those on DLA who are awarded the higher mobility component of DLA. No matter what the Daily Mail tells you.

5. DLA recipients “pay” for their car using their benefit payments. So a person who has the highest possible award would pay half their DLA benefit toward a leased car. Only 30% of those eligible for a car take one.

If the government were more honest, both about the recipients of benefits not being lazy scroungers, and the response of those who replied to the consultation, I very much doubt that they would have been able to bring the Welfare Bill as far as they have.

And where the hell is our opposition party in all of this?

Why is it left to campaigners who struggle with their own disabilities and have to raise money on social networking websites to fund and produce this report?

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The Banks and The Poor

Who would want to be a banker in UK at the moment?

They are not particularly popular and I do feel sorry for the “normal” bank workers who must be fed up defending themselves against the accusations of greed. The workers who are not in line to receive a huge bonus, the ones who are on the front line.

The actions of their superiors must make them cringe. And I have no doubt that they are the ones getting the abuse from irate customers when stories like this are aired.

In August, 1m RBS customers with basic bank accounts were told they could withdraw money only from RBS, NatWest, Tesco or Morrison cash machines.

The RBS move affects customers with basic accounts that do not offer overdrafts or chequebooks. They can also withdraw over the counter at Post Offices.

The bank explained the change at the time by saying the cost of offering a wider range of ATMs – or cash machines – to basic bank account customers was now “unsustainable”.

I note that it is Tesco and Morrison cash machines, not Sainsbury or Waitrose and am surprised they didn’t add Asda to the list.

Who has a basic account, one without an overdraft or a chequebook?

It is not the rich, that is for sure.Begging in Holborn by Mark Hillary - Man begging outside a branch of Natwest

Basic account holders are those who are already struggling, and must now go out of their way to take cash out. This means that instead of nipping to the ATM down the road, they have to  drive to the next available cash point. If they have a car, and if they have petrol for the car. If not, well they will just have to walk. If they are able to walk that far.

What infuriates me most is that many of these people will have been victims of the British banks’ strange money making scheme – the unauthorised overdraft charges. Perhaps this is even part of the reason that they are in debt.

When I left home and got my first job in Scotland, I had a bank account with the Bank of Scotland. I was earning a very low wage, and had to watch my pennies carefully. If I went overdrawn by even just a small amount, the bank charged me £20. Which meant that the next month, I was overdrawn again and so was charged again. £20 is a lot of money when you only earn £500 a month.

It is a vicious circle and the banks have been doing this for decades.

The Bank of Scotland reported £2bn pre-tax profit for the 3rd quarter of 2011. Do they really expect us to believe that their recovery hinges on their customers with basic bank accounts being able to withdraw cash from all machines?

The banks should be ashamed of themselves.

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