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disabled

What was Margaret Thatcher’s legacy for my family?

When Margaret Thatcher died last week, I was surprised by the strength of feeling that event provoked in me. I might as well state now that I grew up in a working class family in Somerset under MT’s governance.

However I did not know her and I do feel for her family, her children and grandchildren for their loss. There will be no grave dancing or celebrations in my household. I will extend to them the same amount of sympathy and care, they would extend to my family when an elderly relative passes away.

Knowing that MT had shuffled off this mortal coil, however, took me back to my teenage years when my family was struggling with short-time working as my dad was a fabricator welder in manufacturing. But more than that, he’d been a coal miner, as had my grandfathers and my  great grandfathers. I remember nothing good about the politics of that time for my family. I also remember the stranglehold of some of the trade unions, the closed shop attitude and I wasn’t keen on that either. It was a period of division and defiance.

However, I only expressed my views on my personal Facebook page and on a couple of business groups and the reaction was stark. Some treated me as I though I was a silly woman who couldn’t possibly understand the ‘bigger picture’ and some women started barking on about what a role model ‘Thatcher’ was for women. I respect most of their views but I don’t share them, I’m afraid.

Overall though, the divisive nature of the various debates which have hung around for days,  reminded me of the strength of feeling MT could engender. Polar opposites appeared where none had existed before. It’s been very interesting and generated a feeling which existed very strongly in society during her reign.

My biggest disappointment has been hearing people suggest – as often happened in the 1980s – that because they’d been successful under MT (or any government for that matter), those who weren’t as rich or as successful must be lazy or scroungers.

The ‘I’ve got this because I’ve worked hard’ line which always suggests others aren’t working as hard. That kind of line always tells me that a person  has no clue what’s going on in wider society.

Personally I have no problems with success – good luck to those who have it and well done if they’ve worked hard for it. Some do, some don’t.

But many, many people (like my dad) work really hard, live hand to mouth and still need some extra support. Many people work hard but are in jobs which will never lead to more financial success. That doesn’t make the millionaire in the next village better – it just makes them different.

It’s this lack of compassion and empathy which staggers me. Often from people I thought were better educated than that. Better educated than me.

Thatcherism seems to give people permission to kick the homeless, the disabled, the poor when they are already down. It allows people to gloat over the misery of others. 

I had a lovely talk with my Mum about this and I felt humbled by her response. As a wife with two children and a husband working short time in the 1980s, life was a struggle. She often cried because there wasn’t enough money coming in. She said that she feels at peace about MT – for her last week contained a day when a defeated, old lady was set free.

Her reasoning was that on the day MT had to walk out of Downing Street having been thrown out by her own – that was the day justice was done for  our family.

If MT had been defeated by a new government coming in, there would have been room for maneouvre. But when you are thrown out by your own, so publicly and then replaced by someone so grey and colourless  – that’s the ultimate in humiliation. For Mum, when MT died last week, she was honestly able to say Rest In Peace.

It’s just a lovely picture…

Disabled? In receipt of benefits? Need social care?

This is a different sort of blog for me – it’s my journalist head trying to get at the truth of the matter, so this will be particularly relevant to you if you are disabled, in receipt of benefits or in need of social care.

Two important pieces of legislation are happening as we speak – The Health & Social Care Act and also the Welfare Reform Act 2012. These two laws have the potential to make significant change to how we provide health and social care and how we provide financial support to many groups in the country.

I’ve not got any particular political axe to grind – but I’m interested to know what people’s thoughts, feelings, hopes, worries or concerns are around these laws. I’m not at all sure that people know what is proposed in clear detail. For example, single parents will be encouraged strongly to work once their youngest child reaches five – at the moment it’s 16. Is that good or is that bad? It’s felt that too many people are claiming Disabled Living Allowance and there is an aim to cut that cost. So the DLA is to be replaced by the Personal Independence Payment. What does that mean in terms of assessment of need? Who will carry out the assessments and when?

Will changes to social and health care affect vulnerable groups – for good or ill? eg. dementia sufferers and/or their carers or families?

Another thing which interests me is the idea of an organisation called Monitor overseeing or looking at the health service – what’s that all about? Is this a private company scrutinising a public service? Is that a good or bad thing?

 

Are there any thorny questions around these laws?

Are there any groups out there who are actively campaigning? Or is the public feeling that there are too many scroungers getting an easy life by not working and claiming everything under the sun? I’m skeptical that that is the case but I could be wrong?

Please let me know your thoughts and feelings? Do comment. Or send personal message which I can keep private (though please clearly state if you want that to be the case).

 

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