I read your speech when I got home and, to be honest, the premise seemed fairly straightforward: you believe that it is not the role of the state to lift, or keep, people out of poverty; the only appropriate tool to ensure a good life is individual hard work.

With that in mind I’d like you to meet Michael, a 27-year-old man with severe autism.

Michael cannot read, write or speak and, although he is capable of communicating with those who know him (at least on a basic level), he spends a great deal of his time frustrated at his inability to express himself.

Michael lives in a residential care centre in Ayrshire, 40 miles away from his family. He has a bedroom with an ensuite, and shares a kitchen and lounge with other service users who also live in the unit (it would be an insult to call it a home).

Though he used to enjoy a range of educational activities which improved his quality of life these have been discontinued due to funding problems rooted in your government’s austerity agenda.

Michael cannot read, write or speak and, although he is capable of communicating with those who know him (at least on a basic level), he spends a great deal of his time frustrated at his inability to express himself.

Sometimes, depending on a range of largely uncontrollable factors, this frustration manifests itself in violent outbursts during which Michael may injure himself or his staff.

In addition to his autism, Michael also suffers from a number of health problems including epilepsy – as a consequence he has little, if any, privacy.

To be clear, no amount of ‘support’ will ever change these simple facts.

Having read your speech on Tuesday I spent much of the evening trying to imagine the sort of job that Michael could do in order to deserve a life free from poverty and its associated consequences (such as an earlier death).

Reduced to a statistic, Michael is simply a problem; to you, it would be better if he didn’t exist at all.

Eventually, just when I was about to give up, it hit me – there is something that Michael could do, a role perfectly suited to both his abilities and his situation.

Michael, it turns out, would make an excellent scapegoat.

Source: Common Space – James McEnaney: An open letter to Iain Duncan Smith – meet Michael, my brother

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