I've just spent a rather enjoyable evening with a mate of mine with a spinal injury, who is confined to a wheelchair. Like many people in his position, he is at the sharp end of the government policy on benefits for the disabled.
In a civilised soceity, the government should employ people to help him and make sure that he takes up all of the benefits he's entitled to, so his life is bearable. Like many honest and decent people, he's totally baffled by the rules and regulations. As I have a few friends who are knowledgeable about such matters, I got a couple of them to come around and see if they could help him.
Barnet Council used to have a department called the Welfare Rights Unit, which helped people in my friends situation. Sadly the deemed it a waste of money and chopped the funding. As a result, if you happen to know a blogger, who happens to know a few experts, you may get what you are legally entitled to. If you don't then you'd better get down on your knees and pray for a miracle, because you'll need it to figure out the minefield.
Let me just give you one of my friends dilemmas. He needs a new kitchen, his existing one is falling to bits. He needs to save up £10,000 to buy one. If he has more than £6,000 of savings, his benefits get chopped. Result? No kitchen and an unhygenic food preparation area. What sort of system puts you in a situation like that?
When my expert friends left, we had a chat about life, the universe and everything. There are many things we agree about and a few things we don't. It was great to have a chat and I left pondering a few of the subjects we talked about. As he has time on his hands, he's very well read on certain issues and I'll certainly brush up on a few subjects before I take him for the beer I promised.
We had a long debate about truth. The one thing which I know to be true beyond doubt it is the mind that matters, not the package it comes wrapped in. Sadly as a society, we push intelligent people to the margins, purely because they lack mobility. Most of my best friends are fairly spiky individuals. Nothing makes me happier than when they tell me I'm talking bollocks and can back up their statements with facts. What do I do? I go off do my homework and if they are right, concede the point. If they are wrong, I take great satisfaction in telling them so. One way or another, I suspect that the next conversation with my friend may be rather interesting.
It brings to mind the situation at Barnet Council. I rather wish that the people at Barnet Council responsible for the One Barnet project would do the same. We never here a justification based on fact and we never hear a concession that they've got it wrong. Why are they scared of the truth?
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