Just under five years ago stubborn old me didn't take time off for recovery. I struggled through my working days and often collapsed in a heap in the evenings and at the weekends. Most of those who saw me on a daily basis didn't know I was sick, let alone that when I said see you on Monday I was heading off for a course of treatment every other Friday.
I could have taken a reduction in hours. I may even have qualified for Employment and Support Allowance. I didn't, but what if my reaction to the treatment were worse (and having said that it was bad enough). Suppose I hadn't been in my late 30s and reasonably fit, but in my early 60s, like my father was, and knocked sideways by the same illness the same treatment. Suppose like him it came back after that first course of treatment, not within 12 months as was his case but at the end of that period? What if like that the return of the illness was more virulent, took longer for me to recover, or even required me to take more draining treatment to try and rid me of it?
What would have happened then, if the decision made by the MPs today was in place then and I fond myself in that situation? The reason I'm asking is that I am currently waiting tests to see if that worse case scenario that the illness has returned is the case. But the Government including members of my party, some of whom knew that I disappeared for the best part of a year five years ago, have decided that the ESA that I may well have been relying on would have been cut back. For someone that was willing to work, able to work, maybe even someone who had worked as often as he could have.
There is a golden figure from when the disease has been cleared away that you can really say that you are over it. The MPs today put a timescale on that of 12 months, yet my doctors and specialists won't say that about this disease for a whole 5 years. It can return at any point, either within that first 12 months or at any point from then on. Even after the 5 years are up you are out of the woods completely but merely said to be in remission, it can still return.
This is just one example of why the Lords amendments were right and the commons were wrong to whip through so much opposition against all of them today in the Welfare Reform Bill.
So yeah if you have read this far in this post my name is Stephen and I am a cancer survivor, though the government today seems determined to make it harder for fellow survivors to get by.
And when the press talk about Lib Dem 'rebels' on this welfare reform bill, let us remember that those who were voting to retain the Lords amendments were doing so at the behest of conference on many occasions today. So just who were the rebels?