Xmas Spirit?

Recently I have found myself torn about what to write about. Every time I felt ready to put finger to keypad, another issue caught my attention. Then I realised that they were all connected.

The first big issue to drive me to my blog page was the recent changes in the Motability scheme. Motability is the charity that was set up to allow disabled people to afford to be able drive themselves around. It replaced the old blue three wheeled Noddy car, that not only meant that disabled people had to go everywhere alone as it was a one seater but also that they took their lives in their hands as it was a total death trap. Anyone who saw Jeremy Clarkson drive round Sheffield in a three wheeler will have seen why. Originally it only offered a few cars, but it grew to allow disabled people to use their Mobility component of their Disability Living Allowance to fund a huge number of vehicles, along with a deposit for the more expensive models. Another reason why so many disabled people had to use the Hire Car Scheme from Motability is because getting insurance when you are disabled is very difficult and expensive, but insurance is included with the scheme. This because when you get a car under this scheme you don’t own it, you lease it. So the insurance is a fleet insurance, which is nice. Not so nice is that the car is never yours and after three years you return it to Motability, who then sell it on as a second hand car.

Just before I started my search for a new car I recieved a letter from Motability outlining changes to the scheme. From now on fewer cars would be available, with a total deposit limit of £2000 and any other named drivers had to live within five miles of the primary vehicle user. It was explained that this was due to the recent stories in newspapers such as the Daily Mail, where apparent cases of fraud had been discovered. They also complained that Motability allowed disabled people to drive expensive cars. Check out the story to see some of the examples. The one thing they totally ignored was that all cars under Motability scheme owned by Motability, and after the three year lease period are returned for resale. If you add this to the fact that for most cars that they used to offer had a deposit of around £500 right up to £4000, which is non-refundable, and a hire fee £50 per week to Motability. On top of this Motability has negotiated serious discounts on new cars, and in many instances Motability must break even or maybe make a small profit.

Let me demonstrate with a a personal story. Many years ago, when my Mobility Allowance was around £38 per week, I hired a Ford Escort through Motability. I paid £500 deposit and signed over the full £38 per week for a three year period. During the process I recieved some paper work, but it should have been sent to Motability. It was the invoice for the car and it was for under £3000, even though the list price was around £9000. So let’s do the maths. £38 times 52 weeks times 3 years equals £5928. Add my deposit of £500 and we end up with £6428. So for a car that cost Motability £3000 I paid £6428 and gave it back for them to sell on… and they kept any monies received from that sale. Now I don’t mind this situation as I know that I would never been able to get car insurance, seeing as I was a musician and TV presenter with a disability. But it does demonstrate that all this fuss about disabled people getting favourable treatment are just lies. I just wish that Motability had tried to fight the smear campaign from the press instead of just giving in. I do know that I am having real trouble finding a car that is suitable for me now. So thanks The Daily Mail.

Another story that caught my eye is that of David Askew, the disabled man who was bullied to death by local youths up in Manchester. My wife and I were targetted by a group of “youths” when we lived in Hammersmith, West London. In the end it got so bad I had to leave my home, even though I lived under the Housing Association Habinteg who were set up to ensure disabled people could live independently in society and was totally adapted to suit my needs, as no one came to our aid. The police said they could do nothing until we were attacked, but when my wife was seriously beaten up by three masked yobs while I helplessly watched, they could do nothing as we could not positively identify our attackers. My HA were useless and so I gave up my flat and moved into a totally unsuitable place to get away from the threats and violence. It took me three years to find a new flat suitable for me, and this really damaged my health. It is a fact that disabled hate crime has increased in the last few years, and it is partly due to stories like the one in the Daily Mail mentioned above. These lies and half truths have caused many people in society to see disabled people with jealous eyes. We are no longer pitiful, which is great, but are now objects of hate and envy. But this attitude is not just for disabled people. At a time of massive unemployment and poverty, anyone who may need to ask for assistance from the state is now seen as an easy undeserving target.

Strangely I am currently reading Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, and have watched both the modern version with Patrick Stewart (Star Trek’s Captain Pickard) and the classic Alistair Simms version on the old google box. This tale of a man with a hardened heart discovering the truth behind the point of life should have resonance with all of society today. We should listen to the three spirits and see the truth about the world we live. Sure there are people out there that break the rules, but most are really in need and we should be happy to help them. And the rich should be even more happy to contribute more to making sure our society is a fair and happy place to live in, not only at Xmas but all year round. Sadly more and more people seem to be touched by the spirit of Humbug at the minute, aided by our press.

So come on every one. We live in a rich society, where some people are so rich that they an afford flats in London that cost over £9 million pounds – yes I saw a recent advert for a flat near me for that much…. a flat? £9 million? they must be mad, you could buy a small county for that much in some parts of the UK! – so we should not listen to our inner Scrooge. Instead we should have an open heart and wish good will to all. In the words of Tiny Tim, one the most famous disabled people in literary history and someone I know I resembled when I was a kid, “God bless us, everyone”. Just think if he was around today the Daily Mail might describe him as a scrounger and accuse his family of being benefits cheats if he got any of the help he was entitled to. And never forget it was stories like The Christmas Carol that slowly led to the Welfare State. The last thing we want to go back to the time the tale was set in, with workhouses and poverty on an unimaginable scale.

Anyway, rant over. Happy Xmas to you all and superb New Year!

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