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Who benefits from benefits? A very good post from Sue Marsh

Much discussion recently about benefits. Benefits and social security are extremely important and must be defended. The post below, which is from Sue Marsh's site, gives very good insight into this.

Here's something else we never talk about.

I am lucky. I am privileged. I am blessed.

Sometimes I think I'm so lucky, I worry it can't possibly last. I was born in the top 1% of all lucky, into one of the richest areas of the richest countries on the planet. Though "poor" here, I always realised (we were the Band Aid generation....) that my poverty was incredibly relative. I was born to loving parents who encouraged and inspired me to be the very best I could be. I met that special soul wating just for me, to love and cherish me for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. I have 2 healthy, bright, funny children. I live in a beautiful home in a beautiful tree lined avenue. I have enough to get by with a little more than I fundamentally need to survive. I went to university despite poverty. I've travelled. My husband works in a stable job.

But I'm luckier even than that. Luckier than most of you. Because I'm sick. If I lived almost anywhere else on the planet, I'd have died when I was nine and my tonsils sent me into toxic shock, long before I ever developed Crohn's disease. Then, I'd have died when I was 16 and my first real Crohn's crisis took hold. Then, if by some miracle I'd survived those little deaths, I'd have certainly died at 21 when my bowerl burst under the strain of a 12 inch abscess, rotting my appendix clean away.

Almost everywhere else on the planet, if I HAD survived any of those events, broken and septic, I'd have almost certainly been disowned or abandoned or left to beg on the streets.

But I live in a country - so prosperous and privileged - that developed beyond the point of living to eat, to be able to live to care. We decided long ago that people like me were as valid as everyone else.We signed up to the UN principle that all people - broken or whole - had the right to a home, to live independently free from persecution. We're the only country in the world that doesn't discriminate on provision of healthcare in any way. Say it again? Every time it makes me proud.

And so onto privilege. I am uniquely privileged. I live in a country where I can speak freely. I have countless opportunities to express myself and the freedom to know that others will be free to listen and read if they choose. I am kept alive in comparative comfort and enabled to parcipate in society in a million different ways. Members of the Spartacus Network changed the debate on social security from their beds, proving no-one but no-one is barred from taking part in our society. The government I oppose keep me alive to do so. That's almost miraculous by global standards, but we forget.

In return for the compassionate support of a country I love, I have given years of my life and thousands of hours of my time trying to make this privileged corner of our planet even better. I'm no saint, I won't list how here, but I've tried to give back as much as I've taken in as many ways as I can whenever the opportuniy offered itself. I sort of made it my "job".

So when some sneer about "welfare campaigners" or imply that defending basic human rights is somehow "degrading", perhaps this post explains why I fight so hard for what they see as a demeaning status quo. Call it "welfare" if you like, dream of Halcyian fields where perfect access and an end to all prejudice makes social security unnecessary.

But we had it right. A lot of it at least. We did a good job. Of course there would always be new steps forward to take, but on the whole, we weren't moving backwards and hadn't been for some time. We were making progress every day towards the inclusion and acceptance of those living with illnesses and impairments. People like me. I want everyone, regardless of accidents of birth or circumstance, to be treated with the respect and care I enjoyed, that allowed me, despite all the odds, to be the best person I can be.

Yes. I am aware every day that it is an enormous privilege to live in a country that values me, keeps me alive, encourages my voice and allows me some comfort. Unlike some, I find it squeamishly hard to see any of that as a "right" when most of the world starves and suffers.

That was the value of our welfare state. For every 1 scrounger story there are 1,000 like mine. For every NHS failure, there are 1,000 successes. And here we are. Blogging and tweeting and telling our stories. Not waving but drowning, trying to warn you all not to throw it all away.

You've kept me alive, in dignity and (globally speaking) comfort in the understanding that if, one day, that headache turns out to be a brain tumour or that skiing or rugby accident means you never walk again, every last "taxpayer" knows that in a little way, it's them too. By keeping you alive, they keep themselves alive. Maybe. One day.

Isn't that worth fighting for?


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