Alison Goulding: ‘Something really horrible is happening...’

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WRITING about serious matters is a painful process for me.

For the reader it is as pleasant as watching someone get their back waxed.

Therefore, I promise, if you bear with me and read to the end of this column, I will reward you with a moment of cheer and good humour.

Something really horrible is happening in this country. People with disabilities, or with serious health problems, are having their benefits taken away from them.

It is well documented that the Government has employed a private firm, Atos, to carry out work-capability assessments on people receiving benefits.

Atos are paid millions to do this, and they turned a profit of £42million in 2010.

Which may lead you to jump to the wild conclusion that they are somewhat motivated by money.

As a result, thousands of people are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place.

Like Paul Mickleburgh, one of the longest surviving kidney dialysis patients.

Paul undergoes dialysis three days a week for five hours at a time. He’s also had cancer, pneumonia and suffers from spontaneous internal bleeding, brittle bones, a twisted bowel and joint pains as a result of his renal treatment.

He’s had four failed kidney donations.

In five years he has had 14 heart attacks.

Atos believe Paul should be moving towards a return to work. Paul is feeling pretty desperate about this.

He is not alone either. The “crack down” on the welfare bill has seen many in the same boat. Those brave enough to appeal face the waiting game while their case is resolved or dismissed.

In the meantime, the claimant must rely on family and friends, assuming they have any, or any that are able to help.

The Government’s excuse for treating people like this is pinned firmly on the minority who have taken a lend when it comes to the benefits system.

This small group have been used to attack those whom the system is meant to serve – now they are all lumped under the “scrounger” label.

The reality is that those who defraud the system manage to extract a tiny sum, especially in comparison to the ocean’s-worth of cash that vanished during the banking crisis.

To give a sense of perspective: Benefit cheats cost us £1.2billion a year, whereas tax evasion by the richest of the rich comes in somewhere between a hefty £15billion and a frightening £70billion depending on whose stats you follow. And while £1.2billion is clearly worth chasing, the priorities here are twisted.

Personally, I am very happy that some of my salary goes to support the welfare of those less well off than me.

I can even sleep at night knowing that the welfare net catches a few fishes who shouldn’t be there.

A society can be judged on how well it treats its most vulnerable members, and at the moment this country is failing badly.

If you would like to find out more about this, search online for info on the Black Triangle Campaign.

To make a practical difference, consider donating to your local food bank if you are able to: sunderland.foodbank.org.uk

Now, here is your reward for reading this.

What did the fish say when it crashed into the wall? Dam.