Thursday, 17 January 2013
#esaSOS: just when you think it's safe to be disabled again - - -.
Here we go again! Just as we thought things were beginning to settle down those of us who make up the disabled community in this country are having to prepare ourselves for another onslaught on our dignity, our credibility and our abilities. For purely ideological reasons the Coalition Government, and yes, Liberal Democrats, you are as culpable as the Conservatives for what is being done to claw back a few pounds a week from those of us who are unable to serve the capitalist machine for medical reasons, while you cut the tax rates of those with the most money in this country (including yourselves) and you do nothing about those who find a way around the latest tax regulations before the ink recording them has dried on the page.
The Atos inspectors, -(yes that is what they are, Assessors are given licence to apply reality to whatever it is they are assessing while inspectors simply ensure that a product or commodity - in this case those who the medical professions have deemed "disabled" - fit a predefined set of parameters)- have been given instructions to play what amounts to a guessing game with the quality of our lives.
They are now under instruction from the government to imagine whether or not folk like me can be fitted back into "the workplace" if we used some aid or adaptation we might never have heard of, or seen, and regardless of whether or not we, as INDIVIDUALS, are able to make use of that aid or adaptation. This is equivalent to putting a 14-year-old in a Grand Prix car on a public road because they might be a good driver at some unidentified point in the future. Many of us will be subjected to an equivalent level of danger following our INSPECTION. If it were not so serious it would be laughable.
Three years ago I asked my GP if there was somewhere I could go to learn how to “drive” a wheelchair as I thought the time to submit to the pain was coming near. He didn’t agree, he pointed out that permanent use of a wheelchair has implications for skeleton and muscles. We reviewed my pain management instead. So what happens if the Atos inspector decides I can work from a wheelchair?
And there is more - - -
Those of you who are familiar with my blog will know that I live with both a recognised physical disability and a diagnosed mental illness. I am not sure what the implications will be for me of the latest Tory/Lib Dem instruction to the inspectors that they MUST NOT take account of both the physical and the cognitive disabilities of the human being standing before them, but I am assuming it will mean, in my case, that I am inspected twice. If that is the case it will be incredibly annoying but as those responsible for both my physical and my psychiatric well-being continually reassure me that either one of these conditions, and the strong medication I take in order to manage each one of them, should mean I am never considered fit for employment again. I have to continuously remind myself of some of the true horror stories about the fate of disabled persons who have been inspected by Atos in order that I do not become complacent. For I, and only I, am very aware of what the effect will be on my mental health if I allow myself to assume that I will continue to be deemed unfit for employment and the opposite occurs.
One of the side-effects of my "Degenerative Disc Disease" is arthritis. Earlier this year I was asked by the charity "Arthritis Care" to provide a filmed account of the impact of that aspect of my disabilities on my lifestyle and on my well-being, (BY WHICH THEY MEANT MY MENTAL HEALTH). I'd never really thought about that before, it caused me to recall the time in my early twenties when I contracted glandular fever. Everybody warned me to be wary of the depression glandular fever causes and I would inwardly smile because, unbeknown to them, I was already a diagnosed chronic depressive and I could not imagine that anything could be worse. I was half right, the depression associated with the glandular fever was not "worse" than that I was already experiencing, BUT IT WAS DIFFERENT: AND IT WAS EQUALLY FRIGHTENING AND DEBILITATING. I was able to point out on the film that the depression which comes as part of the package of physical and cognitive pain associated with arthritis is similar. It is also the case that the depression which came with the "illness" of glandular fever, and that which is caused by the consistent pain and the disabling aspects of arthritis, was/is not relieved by the medication prescribed to alleviate my psychiatric depression.
As you can see, I know from experience that to deny the cognitive effects of both chronic illness, and chronic impairment, on the mental health of those who live with either of these things is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is the assumption that an inspector has the permission to ignore the impact of living with the affects my defective body and my defected mind have upon each other, in order to "fit" me into some template of what a worthwhile (worthwhile within the capitalist system that is) person is.
The "able-bodied" should take heed of what is happening here. If ever evidence were needed to prove that life in the 21st century is lived as nothing more than a cog in the machine, or that individuality is no longer valued and has no place in a society that places the creation of money above the creation of a caring one, this is it. You who move through life unencumbered by physical disability or psychiatric illness need to join our crusade. As someone who went to work one-day a physically healthy human being and returned and "invalid" I can assure you that you cannot afford to be complacent and perform the “them” and “me” cognitive disassociation this government is encouraging you to do because it prevents you from accepting and empathising with the vulnerability of the human condition. It could be you or one of your loved ones tomorrow, I wonder if you will then continue to condone the bullying, victimisation, and stigmatising that we "disableds" are living with right now. It will be too late then of course, the systems and the recognition we fight for will have gone. And if you happen to be an Atos Inspector I genuinely hope the day never comes that you or your loved ones have to face the future you are creating for me and my community.
Never forget, it's me today, it could be you tomorrow.
Thursday, 18 October 2012
It is time this Fascist government faced reality.
Recent comments about closed curtains at "worktime" reveal how out of touch they are with the realities of working class life and even of the work that goes on to sustain the working infrastructure WHILE THEY SLEEP.
They have attempted to begin another smear and hate campaign just as they have done to the disabled with the help of their "tame" media, the Sun, the Mail, the Express, ITV, Sky and the BBC.
Apart from those who are ill, others who might need to sleep in a darkened room during the day include Nurses, Doctors, Police, Firefighters, Cleaners, Aircrew, Railway Staff, Catering Workers, Bus Drivers, Underground Maintenance Staff, Road Cleaners, Social Workers and thousands of others who help run the 24 hour a day world we all live in.
Every policy of this government reveals a hatred of those of us who are not like them. This is Fascism and I pray the country will wake up to this before the followers of this party of persecution perpetrate a modern Kristallnacht against one of these sustained, government inspired, scapegoated groups of decent, mainly working class, groups of honourable citizens.
Monday, 5 December 2011
An open letter to the **** (just joking) Jeremy Clarkson
From a mentally ill ex public service worker.
Dear bigot (just joking) Jeremy,
I wonder if it's because you grew up with the initials JC that you believe you have some sort of God-given right to mock, abuse, and denigrate people whose lives you do not understand. Sad as that would be, for surely it would mean that you are suffering from some sort of delusional mental illness, I think that would be preferable to the alternative, i.e. That you are a loudmouthed, bigoted, sociopath who is unable to walk in the shoes of others. (That's not an invitation to walk in mine, I can only afford to buy one pair at a time and I fear that your aura might distort them beyond the point where they are useful to me. (Just joking: obviously.)).
Before I get to the nitty-gritty I suppose I ought to come clean and say that I am not a fan of either you or your television programme. In the days when I did watch motoring programmes on the television it was because I wanted to know about the sort of motorcar that I could afford to buy, it was not to watch grown men having the sort of conversation about cars that any group of 13-year-olds might have while playing a game of Top Trumps in the playground. It's about that age, 13 to 15, most young people realise that threatening to kill people is a fairly stupid thing to do, and yet you, an adult, told the world this week that you would like to shoot people like me.
Have you ever had any psychological tests Jeremy, I'm not qualified to say such things - (though that's never stopped you has it) - but I'm wondering if you're suffering from some sort of delayed cognitive development (joking?).
Am I being unfair, would I be saying these things if I really knew you? (I suspect I would be, don't you?). But it is unfair when someone does something like that isn't it? And yet this week you have used, possibly abused, your privileged position as a public mouthpiece to insult, to abuse, and to (attempt, (I think it failed)) ridicule me and thousands like me.
I am a public service pensioner. I was retired "on health grounds" when my spine collapsed and I lost the ability to remove myself quickly from the vicinity of the most violent of the people I worked with and supported in your name.
When I was 40 years old I had moved from "industry" to "social work" for ethical reasons, I knew that I would earn nothing like the salary I could have earned in industry doing a job with a similar level of stresses and responsibility, but was told that would be compensated for when I retired, when, because of the not insubstantial contributions I would have made, I would receive a "good" pension.
(No one needed to explain to me, after all, it's common sense isn't it? that many public servants, police, firemen, ambulance staff, have an upward age limit on the time they could continue in their jobs. It's always been obvious to me that these folk would require a reasonable pension if they were not to be impoverished when they retired in their 50s.
That says nothing of the dangers these folk face in your name, the dangers faced by the three examples I name above are self evident but teachers are attacked by pupils and the parents of those pupils, nurses and doctors by their patients, and social workers and probation officers, and the low paid office workers who make it possible for these people to do their job efficiently, are attacked frequently.).
The only time I have ever taken industrial action was in 1989 when we social workers discovered that the secretaries who were typing our court reports and our notes were taking home less money than the "impoverished" people we were employed to act on behalf of. The media and right wing politicians of that time, just like their counterparts this week, used their disproportionate control over written and televised media in an attempt to ridicule the strikers, by attempting to minimise the statistics regarding the number of people taking direct action, and to obscure the real purpose of our action by repeatedly quoting examples of the salaries of the most senior social work staff to drown out valid union representation of the least well-paid of its members. (Incidentally, those "High Earning", senior members of staff were not striking, they were staffing the telephones and emergency services so that social service users were not disadvantaged). Interesting isn't it that here we are over 20 years later listening to the same arguments from both sides (On the Government side from some of the same people!).
Now Jeremy, what I am in reasonably unique position to know is that those striking public service workers have contributed a great deal more to their pension schemes in the past than those in the private sector did. This is what the argument this week (this year) has been about, not what might happen in the future but what will happen to the money that these workers have, in effect, put by to support them when they retire. If this government were to say to you that they are going to retrospectively tax you on any savings you have made since you began work I suspect you might have some sort of opinion about that.
This week the coalition government has been laughably "talking up" the miniscule new tax they are applying to banks and bankers, but there is no talk of this being applied retrospectively, back to the time when banks first began making extortionate profits.
Know what Jeremy, I suspect that (like the true child of Thatcher you are) you do not like the term "unfair", I suspect you would like to see people with a problem get off of their arses and do something about it. Well Jeremy, that is what the public sector workers did this week, in accordance with "Laws" laid down by Thatcher's Government, yet you, and the right wing politicians who think the way you do, attempted to lampoon them for doing it. I realise that you were probably "Only Joking" but, I think you should know that the 2 million strikers and millions like me who supported their action, did not find any of it very funny.
The other thing I do not find funny is that my public sector pension, which you are all so envious of, is worth less than £100 a week to me. (And I'm not joking).
And now to your second "funny" remark of this week, the one during which you claimed that people who commit suicide by throwing themselves under trains are being selfish.
The sad thing about this for me is that it is different from "funny?" remarks you made about shooting strikers. Those remarks, along with your previous "humorous" soliloquies regarding the "Green" movement; and those you make to reinforce the gender stereotypes which some of us have been working as long as you have lived to remove; can be put down as the ranting of an uninformed bigot. Here my concern is that unlike those occasions, you appeared to have some knowledge of the subject you sought to ridicule. After all, in one of your interviews you made it clear that you are aware that those who choose to die in this way have a very high success rate.
You might like to know that among those of us who fight daily against the desire to end our own lives it is well known that those who have "had enough" will jump, (from bridges, buildings, or under trains), or, they will shoot or hang themselves (and my contempt of you is even greater because you chose to value being able to drive your car through traffic free London above the loss of human life during a week when the family of Gary Speed have had to begin the journey of coming to terms with his choosing to end his life in that way.).
When, like me, you have sat in waiting rooms or on wards full of people who really do see, and are genuinely terrified of, little green men, other people who desperately want to take "that way" out of a life haunted by televisions that speak to them, or hearing voices which constantly tell them to harm themselves or those they love, or hallucinations which play out before them scenes far more horrific than the most talented creators of horror films can imagine. Once you have got to know those people you will be entitled to begin to think you might have a right to apply cruel labels to us, to my people, and to my friends, the most courageous people I know.
In a society that uses the word "depressed" to describe the feeling when one loses a mobile phone or is upset by a remark made by another, it is easy to forget that Clinical Depression, and Bipolar Disorder are terminal illnesses, terminal because they cannot be cured and more often than not will end with the premature death of the person with the illness. (The impact of the second illness on the sufferer and those closest to them is further discounted by the way the term "Manic" has been so distorted through common, inappropriate, media usage).
The strategy used by many sufferers of mental illness, and the professionals who treat them and care for them, is to combat their wish to be dead through invoking and visualising thoughts of how their deaths will affect those who love and care for them. Wife's, Husband's, Children, Grandchildren, Partner's, Boyfriend's, Girlfriend's, the Cat, and the Dog, the feelings of all of these take on massive significance when the thought patterns of those with mental illness become dominated by the wish to die. Many of us will have been using these images and thoughts for the benefit of others for years, even though they keep us trapped in an endless cycle of fear, anxiety, loneliness and alienation.
For many of us our first thoughts on waking are occupied with deciding strategies we will employ that day to hide our innermost thoughts and feelings from those we love so they do not become worried or distressed about, or by, us.
Many of us travel to work praying that this will not be the day when something happens to cause enough extra stress for us to betray the torment in our heads. For some of us that means running through every possible eventuality of the coming day so that we are not "caught out" and do not betray our "true" self. This of course means arriving at work already mentally exhausted and travelling through the rest of the day on automatic pilot.
The same process begins on the journey home in an attempt to predict situations or actions by us, which cause worry or sadness for those we live with. While we sit and watch the TV with you we are constantly monitoring the affect of "our selves" on you while trying to grasp enough of the TV programme to answer you if you ask about it. (We are the best multitaskers in the world and I can tell you, because I've done both, it's a lot more tiring than driving very fast a car designed for that purpose).
Tomorrow begins the moment we get into bed tonight, when, instead of being able to celebrate the achievements of getting through the day just passed, we are compelled to begin plotting how we must be from the time we wake in the morning. A process that might take several hours, meaning that by the time we sleep, tomorrow is already here and we wake troubled, and un-refreshed, as the cycle described above inevitably re-occurs.
Selfish Jeremy, I don't think so, most of us who finally escape the cycle require more real courage to do so than you need to drive across a traffic filled London. We are often glad for a colleague who has managed to find that window of escape from the cycle, and those whose windows of opportunity lead onto a railway platform, onto the roof of the building, or onto a bridge, deserve the most respect because they chose a route from which they knew there was not the remotest possibility of return. These are often those of us whose previous escape attempts had been derided as "a cry for help" or "acting out".
When "our" day comes and the fog clears from our eyes, the voices in our heads are quietened, and our hallucinations are of kindly persons taking our hands and leading us to some calm and peaceful place, it will not be selfishness that drives us forward, quite the opposite in fact, for many of us it will be because prior to these wonderful things happening we have finally convinced ourselves that the best thing we could do for those we love the most: Wives, Husbands, Children, Grandchildren, Partners, Boyfriends, Girlfriends, the cat and the dog: is to save them from the future fears, and worries, and from the sadness and pain that we know we will continue to bring into their lives.
That's about it really Jeremy. I don't really expect any of this to change what you might do or say in the future. I, like many others, watched in disbelief as you and your playground pals vandalised and ruined the garden of Steve Redgrave in the name of "good television" and "charity" a few years ago, and we realised on that day what a massive Kant you are. Interestingly two other modern day massive Kant's; named Cameron and Johnson; are also very skilled at obscuring and minimising acts of vandalism perpetrated by themselves while spreading callous and damaging gossip about those whose lives they have made no attempt to understand.
In my opening paragraph I advocated that you should walk in the shoes of others before making condemnatory statements about them. I've changed that view. While placing your words of this week under greater scrutiny I've come to the conclusion that I do not want to subject my vulnerable and sensitive friends and colleagues to your adolescent, unfeeling rhetoric.
I would still like you to call them together before you next pass ill informed, right wing propaganda led judgements of them. I would still like you to ask them to remove their shoes, but, rather than placing those shoes on your feet, I suggest you place them between your lips and hold them there until the desire to pontificate in the uneducated, ill informed, manner of a bigot, leaves you.
Wednesday, 6 July 2011
I wrote these at the time of the Terrorist attacks. Please read them and reflect tomorrow.
Someone's Father, someone's Mother, someone's Sister, and someone's brother, won't come home tonight.
Someone's Boss, someone's workmate, someone's friend and someone's lover, won't come home tonight.
Someone somewhere forever haunted, by harsh words unresolved,
Someone's somewhere lost in sorrow, some young and some old,
Someone somewhere lost a child, life story not yet written
Someone somewhere forgot goodbyes, now that won't be forgotten
Someone somewhere cooked a meal that never will be eaten
Someone's playstation shows a score that never will be beaten
Someone has a "Baby Gro" that will never be worn
Someone rehearsed wedding vows that never will be sworn
Someone very talented, now never will find fame
Someone might have saved the world, now we wont know that name
Someone somewhere who used to visit will never again drop by
Someone's somewhere with stomachs churning ask the question "Why?"
Someone's Daughter, someone's Son, someone's Dad, someone's Mum, won't come home tonight
Someone's soul mate, someone's Gran, someone's woman, someone's man, won't come home tonight
Or ever again.
© Bri 07/07/2005 In Memorium
Pin Drop: 14/07/2005: 12.01 P.M.
Those we pay to protect us, climbed in tanks and armoured cars that day,
While you, the unsung heroes; set out as usual, for your work or play.
Your bravery unrecorded, you negotiated the minefield of everyday life,
And the obstacle course of relationships, Someone’s Husband, Someone’s Wife.
Someone’s Partner, Someone’s Father, Mother, Sister, Brother, Friend,
Just the ordinary folk who live next door, and on whom we all depend,
To heal us, teach us, serve us: to sell us holidays, food and clothes.
Invisible, unknown, to all but your closest, when on that day you chose,
as you had on every day before, despite the terrorist threat,
to leave your homes and keep society alive. We are now forever in your debt.
You are the true martyrs, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh,
West Indian, African, British: Bengali, Turk and Greek
You had no tank to protect you: you fought our battle by train and by bus
And today we stood and remembered you all;
murdered by bombs intended for us.
And you could have heard a pin drop.
© Bri 2005
Thursday, 28 April 2011
It is less then 24 hours since Emperor Cameron told Labour MP Angela Eagles to "calm down dear". She was importantly challenging an incorrect statement he had made when answering a question about the NHS During Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday, yet the media is already playing the government's game of trying to turn criticism of Emperor Cameron's patronisation and bullying of Eagles into yet another example of "political correctness gone mad".
In the manner of Emperor Cameron and his role model Empress Thatcher I would now like to make it absolutely clear in an unequivocal, calm and measured way why what went on in the Commons yesterday demonstrates something much more sinister than "political correctness gone mad". I will of course do this by drawing your attention to 3 (yes: three) "bullet points" on that invisible flipchart Emperor Cameron would like us to imagine he is pointing at whenever he speaks to us as if we are class full of schoolchildren.
- Equality: since becoming elected the coalition has treated all areas of "Human Rights" with absolute contempt. Emperor Cameron has made what amount to racist speeches both in Germany and here in Britain, the coalition's way of ensuring the protection of the rights of disabled people is to try to prove that there is no such thing as a disabled person, and: finally: the coalition's misogynistic attitude to women, which has seen both Emperor Cameron and his lieutenant: that protector of tax cheats, William Hague, use their wives to protect them from media pressure, has now been made even more visible through Cameron's patronising and bullying treatment of Angela Eagles yesterday. The reason why the media has to take a much more serious line on Emperor Cameron revealing his inner self yesterday is because his party is seeking to remove the Equality Act through the back door. The government "Red Tape Challenge" website has set up a discussion here http://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/equalities/%20 inviting the folk like you and I to tell them why equal opportunities legislation is "red tape" rather than being essential legislation which for many provides the only protection they have from the world which views them as inferior or dysfunctional beings. In trying to enlist public support for the abolishment of the Equalities Act Emperor Cameron is once again demonstrating his belief in his absolute autonomy over the British people and their parliament. Without a mandate to do so he has already altered the boundaries of many political constituencies in favour of his own party, and, while telling parents why they must let their children go hungry and the disabled why they are not entitled to protection because the previous government left no money to keep established benefits and practices in place, he has somehow conjured up "from the reserve" enough money to allow him to posture on the world stage by practising "Imperialism", the very thing that has led to many other countries in the world viewing ours with contempt. Emperor Cameron and his senators are very good at attempting to dismiss matters of global importance by reducing them to the content of a simple story about one constituent they have been speaking to. I assume that if a constituent came to them at one of their constituency clinics saying they are no longer able to feed their children but that they will still be taking an expensive foreign holiday to promote the image of Britons abroad, that constituent would be told to cancel the "image building" and to feed their children with the money. Why isn't "The Media", The Liberal Democrats and The Labour Party suggesting to the Emporer that he stops killing people and uses the money to reduce our loan and the interest we are paying on it? The media should be pointing out right now the obscene anomaly that is taking place while Emperor Cameron continues his global image building at the expense of the less fortunate members of British society. Emperor Cameron and his lieutenant's have no respect for the concept of equality which has been one of the things which historically have made the British what they are. It was these things, not a lack of insight regarding political correctness that Emperor Cameron betrayed yesterday, and it is these things that the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party, and the media should be drawing attention to today.
- Bullying: whatever the conservative party and the media be trying to say today, the expression on Emperor Cameron's face as he attempted to face down opponents who were confronting him with his own mistakes betrayed the disdain with which he views those opponents. The bullying nature of the coalition government has been endlessly illustrated through its treatment of children, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled, illustrations of which can be found throughout the pages of my own, and many other blogs which focus on mistreatment of the sick and disabled. The media should be reminding people of the determination that the Emperor applied in his attempts to get us all to believe that his predecessor, Gordon Brown, was a bully. The media should be reminding people that the Emperor's bullying of Gordon Brown is still going on through his intent to prevent Gordon Brown assuming a role of world importance with the International Monetary Fund and, on a more petty level, through the influence he has undoubtedly brought to bear in ensuring that neither Gordon Brown nor his predecessor Tony Blair have been invited to the Royal Wedding tomorrow while the ambassadors of countries we are at war with because of their infringement of the civil rights of their citizens will be there. Emperor Cameron's bullying, like that of other dictators, Hitler, Stalin, Gaddafi, Hussien, etc. extends to trying to remove from history the importance and influence of any of his political predecessors. It was these things, not a lack of insight regarding political correctness that Emperor Cameron betrayed yesterday and it is these things that the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party, and the media, should be drawing attention to today.
- Economical with the Truth: that this government has no respect for accuracy has been illustrated from the minute they came to power after spending a week presenting the country with the charade of discussions between the Liberal Democrats and other parties supposedly in intense discussion regarding which party the Liberal Democrats would align themselves with to form a government. We later learned from Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat secretary to the Treasury, that in fact the decision had been made prior to the election, this is an underreported fact even though it illustrates how the claim of the coalition that they could not wait to tackle urgent problems, left by their predecessors, and that these issues must be tackled "immediately", was hollow nonsense. The thousands of us who make up the disabled community in this country have been made more aware than most of this government's contempt for the truth as on at least three occasions Chris Grayling has, unchallenged either by the Emperor or the printed media, distorted statistics in an attempt to give credibility to his victimisation of the long-term sick and disabled. Yesterday: it was because Angela Eagles was pointing out an untruth in what Emperor Cameron had said, that he turned on her and told her to "Calm down Dear". He was already flustered at that point because Ed Milliband had been pointing out to the house discrepancies in other "facts" the Emperor had previously told both the house and the media regarding things that are happening to the detriment of the National Health Service. In fact that session of Prime Minister's Question Time began with an untruth as the Emperor sought to claim economic growth that simply has not occurred. It must be said that the media has begun to draw attention to the fact that when he is placed under pressure the Emperor makes inappropriate brusque remarks which illustrate his true, bullying, nature. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/wintour-and-watt/2011/apr/27/davidcameron-michael-winner even so, it is all of these things, and not a lack of insight regarding political correctness, that Emperor Cameron betrayed yesterday and it is these things that the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party, and the media should all be drawing attention to today.
Now, having made that all absolutely clear, in case you are thinking that this piece has been written by someone who is so sated in the ideology of equality that I am a "lefty" embodiment of political correctness gone mad, I ask you to consider the following:
In the advertisement which Emperor Cameron claims informed his "comedy" yesterday we see Michael Winner using the phrase to disarm and to "shut up" someone, who just happens to be a woman, who is questioning the things that he said. It has never been regarded as a funny advertisement, in fact, it is one of those advertisements that achieved notoriety for being in such bad taste. I wonder how many people who voted for Emperor Cameron and his party were aware that his personality is influenced by such things.
In conclusion: "Political Correctness" in the form of legislation such as the 2010 Equality Act, is necessary because obnoxious, insensitive, uncaring bullies use their intellect and/or their physical presence to intimidate, denigrate, humiliate and disenfranchise those who are less able than they are to protect themselves. Emperor Cameron, his lieutenant's, and Private Clegg, are attempting to rewind this country to the way it was in the 1970s before some of them were born and before most of them would have been fully aware what was occurring around them, I can assure them, it was not a very pleasant time, as my father-in-law used to say, "be careful of what you wish for - you might get it".
Friday, 8 April 2011
A contribution the BrokenofBritain campaign: DWP45: Fit For Work
On March 23rd 2011 during Prime Minister's Question Time imediately before the Budget, Ed Miliband, - who had previously not said one word about this in public despite repeated requests from voters, - asked David Cameron why he is removing the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance. Although it has been common knowledge that the coalition government intended to do this almost from the point they were elected Cameron, in his usual patronising and sneering manner, said the government had never said they were going to do that.
This interaction, and in particular Cameron's role in it, will not have surprised anyone who, like me, has studied the psychology of those who bully and abuse others. Cameron and his colleagues in the Cabinet are all experts at using two of the most disarming and frustrating tactics of the bully. "I didn't do that" or "I didn't say that" are powerful weapons. What is the other person to do? the only logical way of dealing with this would be to use the word "liar" but that's not so easy to do because the challenger knows that if they attempt to do this they will just hit further frustrating walls of denial.
I have been observing Cameron's build up to the use of this tactic for several weeks and I am glad that on this occasion I had the confidence to tell my colleagues three days before thatI believed Cameron's denial was imminent, although, I must confess, as Cameron prefers to get others to be his bully boys, I expected it to be channelled through George Osborne in his budget speech. Who knows? Perhaps it would have been if Ed Miliband hadn't come up with this question an hour earlier.
As cruel and damaging as the use of abusive language against the disabled has been during discussion of the DLA mobility component, it is more damagingly being used in discussion of the Employment Support Allowance, which has replaced Unemployment Benefit.
Most dishonest is the suggestion that it is the right thing to do to bring under the umbrella of the Employment Support Allowance those who would previously have been placed on what was known as Invalidity Benefit. These people are unable to work because their long-term, often terminal, illness, or some form of disability, has, in the opinion of Doctors and other specialist medical personnel charged with their care, left them unfit, and sometimes incapable, of undertaking paid work because the demands of the commercial “workplace” will be injurious for them.
Finding the right terminology to use in order to fight some of the cruel and downright dangerous things that are happening to "the disabled" at this time has been exceptionally difficult because of the “doublethink” that has been initiated by government to justify their actions. This weekend, at about the same time as the real rationale of Cameron and Co's DLA/ESA game hit me, I realised why.
The previous benefit for those who could not obtain paid employment was "Unemployment Benefit". But Chris Grayling talks about "Jobseekers Allowance", I'm not sure if this label is his own, whether it was originated by Ian Duncan Smith, or whether it is a hangover from the previous New (old Tory) Labour lot. Whichever it was, my point is that a word which is not applied in the context of the cash benefit is "WORK".
The politicians have been very clever. By substituting the word work for employment or job, whenever justifying their bullying of the disabled they have left us feeling both tongue tied and impotent when trying to argue an alternative point of view. They knew, after we have spent years campaigning otherwise, that none of us would feel comfortable saying that people with disabilities (a) cannot work (b) should not work or (c) might be harmed by work.
Having cleverly slipped this ambiguous terminology into the vocabulary regarding disability benefits they have further castrated us (if that's possible) by using the vocabulary of caring, (i.e. work is beneficial to self-esteem), to justify their vile intentions. I know from personal experience and from working for 20 years with adult survivors of childhood abuse, and with children who were describing abuse that had been perpetrated against them, that the most damaging abuse, and the abuse that it is hardest to counter while it is occurring, is abuse perpetrated by someone who claims to be doing what is in the best interest of the person they are abusing, i.e. that they are "caring" about them, that, "this hurts me more than it hurts you".
While the government promotes the view that "any work is better than none", recent research from Australia proves that doing the wrong sort of work is unhealthy and can harm people.The propaganda of Ian Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling has left me and many others feeling driven to despair in the belief that unharmful, unpaid, “work” we have found, which has a positive effect on our self-esteem and general feeling of well-being, will automatically be used against us at our WCA, the Work Capability Assessment, where someone will decide whether we can continue receiving the equivalent of our current incapacity benefit or whether we will be placed on the lower "jobseekers" allowance.
The cynicism of the government is clearly demonstrated through their manipulation of disability rights history.
20 years ago various campaigning disability rights groups introduced the world to a "Social Model of Disability" to demonstrate that many disabled people who wanted to work were unable to do so because of the barriers society placed in their way. Their ideas were taken on board and became enshrined in the Disability Discrimination Act.
In a callous and dishonest manner consecutive governments have manipulated the underpinning values of the social model of disability, reconstructing it as something called the Psychosocial Model of Disability (see what they did there, clever eh?), A model which distorts psychological theory to come up with definitions of sickness and illness that claim these things are a figment of people's imagination. Basically that you are only sick or ill because society has told you that you are. Presumably, because it is not dealt with adequately by the new theory, we are to assume that our disabilities are figments of our imagination also.
The "Social Model of Disability" has been bastardised to provide the fictional and stereotypical "descriptors" used during the WCA process to assess whether people are really as ill or disabled as they "think they are", - regardless of medical opinion - Those who have formulated the WCA have relied on fictional, stereotypical case studies, often provided by Charities who claim to act in the best interest of “The Disabled”.
Here, I would like to begin to illustrate what an inhuman, demoralising, bullying and potentially dangerous process the WCA is through drawing on the experiences of some real people who have given me permission to do so.
For some the fear, the stress, and the anxiety that bullying brings begins not that the WCA itself but at the very thought of it.
A colleague of mine told me the following about her son who is autistic.
“My own son has today asked me to seek help for him and his increasing levels of anxiety. I will of course attempt to do this for him. However I already know that there is no autism specific mental health service from our LA for my son because his IQ is over 70, which is why he has seen no one since leaving Children's Services when he was 16. 8 years is a long time to be left isolated and without provision. It also means that we have no in depth reports to produce as evidence. There are points that have got to be made.”
In a follow-up e-mail she also told me that, although he does not know when it will take place, her son spends several hours each day rehearsing what he might say at his WCA because he is very fearful of making a mistake.
There are other areas where this pre-WCA anxiety is particularly cruel and unwarranted. Firstly: there are those persons with disability who have sought stimulation and self-respect through undertaking the many opportunities for voluntary work that the social model and subsequent legislation advocated. Secondly: there is a group, mainly people with psychiatric illnesses, who undertake what was once known as Therapeutic Employment and is now called Permitted Hours. This scheme was implemented because it was recognised that many people with psychiatric illness would achieve a level of "recovery" if they undertook a limited amount of paid employment.
In both of these cases, voluntary work and permitted hours work there has always been an implicit understanding that although these people could "work", that they were highly unlikely to ever obtain "employment" and that even if they achieved "employment" it was highly unlikely that they would sustain it, either because of their impairment or because of the attitude of employers and other workers towards them.
So what about voluntary work? I guess you could say that I'm doing voluntary work now; I probably would not be writing this blog if I had not been approached and asked if I would like to assist with the work of the BrokenofBritain Disability Rights campaign group. I have colleagues and friends who work for other voluntary organisations and charities such as The Samaritans and the Citizens Advice Bureau. We are all extremely afraid at this time that when we are called for our WCA our ability to do these things will be held against us and used to categorise us as suitable for employment.
Because the person carrying out the assessment is not allowed to deviate from the questions on a computerised form we will not be given the chance to explain what adaptations we use to make it possible for us to do these things. I will not be given the opportunity to explain that writing this blog will take me several hours during which I will need to adjust my physical position several times, I will need to combat the side-effects of my medication, and, I will need to alternate between conventional typing (albeit with one finger) and using my dictation software.
Those who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids know they will be channelled into certain “mobility friendly” occupations, and that these occupations may cause them physical and emotional distress in ways that their chosen voluntary work does not. They also know, whether from experience, like me, or from hearsay, that many of the concessions and allowances made for their benefit in their voluntary work place will not apply in the commercial world of "employment".
Those who work "Permitted Hours" also fear the pressure that will come in a "commercial employment" environment. The following is contributed by another colleague of mine. Her son lives with the exhausting pressures that result from Schizophrenia.
“Try the question out on my son as an example. Is he able to work or unable to work? He has schizophrenia. Even a psychiatrist can’t say whether my son can work or not. It depends on how the condition develops which he can probably make an educated guess at but also the impact of the stress of trying to work which is less well predicted and the employer/labour side of fear of schizophrenia and tolerance to my son not turning up on bad days and getting hallucinations while he is at work and acting in a bizarre way around other employees and customers.
You can’t say if my son is able or unable to work. The only thing you could say is that my son has considerable barriers to overcome but he might be able to work. That is all you can say for most people with disability. My solution is to help and encourage them and leave them in control. The government solution is to harass them and put pressure and sanctions on them.
Would you say my son could work or couldn’t work?
The answer is that at the moment he does permitted work of eight hours a week but can’t increase the hours because the stress makes the symptoms worse. The DWP don’t like you to do permitted work on benefits for any length of time. The DWP say that this makes you comfortable on benefits. I think it is a triumph of a compassionate system that he is this comfortable. They don’t look at it that way.
At eight hours he needs an earning discount and still needs benefits. He goes in for a few hours on days he can manage. He works in a small firm run by a family friend who understands. If he lost that job it is highly unlikely he could find another.
I don’t think he could tolerate conditionality. He has paranoia. The DWP induce paranoia in me. I don’t think there is any answer to whether he is able or unable to work. And I think most people are in the same position. It is not the right question.
The question should be - does he have sufficient barriers to overcome that it is unreasonable to require him to work. That is in fact the definition in the act of a person on ESA.
So all that needs changing is that help not conditionality like the support group is extended to everyone."
(The "conditionality" and "support group" my colleague refers to are an intermediate step between the WCA and "employment" for those who have been "unemployed" long-term. With entrance to the group comes an automatic reduction in benefits to the "jobseekers" allowance. The conditionality she refers to are progress indicators which the candidate must achieve in order to continue receiving benefit. One of the conditions is that if employment has not been achieved after 12 months the benefit will be further reduced)
So, my colleague's son benefits from his "Permitted Hours” and other colleagues benefit from their voluntary work, while I and others benefit from the work we undertake through our campaigning. But would we benefit in the same way in the structured, pressurised and competitive world of the "Employed". Would we be able to obtain employment, or, perhaps more importantly, would we be able to sustain employment.
Most of us who have been employed have tales like this to tell:
The rules for blind reassessment have changed. It is now done on how we navigate ourselves around familiar/unfamiliar places and manage crossing the road! That has been written by a sadist.
I did go to work, briefly, some years after I lost my sight. It took me a long time to come to terms with what had happened to me. It hits different people in so many different ways taking some longer and others never.
For temp work for Christmas money at a turkey factory I had to clock in. I got someone else to find my card and I put a big black cross on it. Reminded me of the sign of the plague. We had to check the dead turkeys for any feathers and I found myself scraping the skin just in case. We had to check sell by dates and I would peer in vain trying to see where the sticky label should be. I bluffed my way for 6 weeks until one day the supervisor called me into her office. She asked me if I had a problem as she got the impression I couldn’t see and I was no use to them if I couldn’t. It was horrible and I left with as much dignity as I could muster asking her to open the door for me. She laughed, told me to “find it yourself you freak” and I tried. It was only when someone else came in that I was able to leave. I was totally humiliated. I walked to a friends house, and I never remember how, and cried my eyes out. I was 40. I tried various other menial jobs but is was always the same. If I told them I couldn’t see they didn’t want me and if I didn’t I was asked to leave when they found out."
My colleague Patricia who wrote that is also full time carer to her husband:
I have a similar tale to tell. Patricia’s story reminded me of the time just after I returned to work as a teacher following the loss of another disc.
My walking, not good before that occurrence, was now very slow but, more importantly, I had lost the ability to raise my feet more than about three quarters of an inch from the ground meaning that I shuffled from place to place. At that time I shared an office with four other people and the communal kettle and tea making facilities.
I never found out who was responsible but suddenly the office floor would become strewn with box files, piles of books, empty cardboard boxes, wastepaper bin, etc etc which meant I needed to navigate a very hazardous path from the office door to my desk. I suspected it was a member of staff who resented the fact that the college had provided me with an orthopaedic chair because she, "had backache too". This minefield would always appear between the beginning of my first lecture and my first break on days when she did not teach during that first session. She was never in the office when it was in the state I described and the debris had always remarkably melted away by the time we, as a group of lecturers, came back together for the lunch break. Consequently, whenever I mentioned it, no one else had ever seen it.
In another phoney act of caring, the cynical nod towards human rights through the integration of disability rights into the "Equality Act 2010", the government tells potential employers that they must not ask specific questions about a person's disability at interview (I imagine workplace health and safety officers might have view about that). But, they can ask questions following the interview or if the person is placed on a shortlist for the post (I suspect the number of jobs requiring a shortlist is about to increase dramatically). Applicants are told that they "should be honest" when answering questions about their disability. It is left to the applicant to decide whether the question they have been asked contravenes the terms of the equality act 2010 and to do something about it if they believe this to be the case.
My own post interview conversation would go something like this:
“Well, my spinal injury prevents me from twisting, bending, lifting or carrying. If I cough, laugh, or sneeze while there is pressure on my spine a disc may burst and you will need to send for an ambulance. You must not attempt to pick me up or move me because that might paralyse me from the waist down. If I fall down because the strength goes from my legs you must not move me for the same reason. You will need to bring a chair or something substantial that I can use to lift myself up from the floor in stages.
The painkillers I take come with a warning about driving and using machinery. The driving problem only occurs if pain wakes me during the night and I need to take extra pain relief to get back to sleep. When this occurs the level of painkilling medication interacts with the medication I take for my diabetes and my depression and it may be several hours before my mind is clear enough to drive.
I may be a bit grumpy or distracted on occasions because I am never pain free and I will be unable to numb the pain by taking extra pain relief while I am at work because if I do so I would not be fit to drive myself home. The nearest I ever got to total relief from pain was using the highest strength of the morphine patches that are usually used by people with terminal illness. Unfortunately, as we replaced my tablet regime with the patches we discovered that only the highest dosage would do. I was initially very pleased about this but the adhesive used to attach the patch literally burned my skin away and my immune system would produce fluid to wash the patch away from my skin.
I'm afraid I'll need special dispensation regarding your rule about turning mobile phones of in the workplace because there will be times when I am working alone here and if I fall I need to be able to let someone know that has happened.
Although I cannot drink alcohol because of the various medications that I take you may receive complaints that I am "drunk". This has happened before. It is caused because, depending which nerves became trapped during my sleep the night before, I might be clumsier than usual, I might "stagger" as I walk, and I may not be able to stop shaking. People have also thought I was drunk because my speech can become slurred; this is caused by dehydration, a side-effect of four of the seven different sorts of medication I take each day.
My depression! It is unlikely you will have to help me with that because it is unlikely that it will suddenly become chronic while I am here. The first you will know if my depressive cycle has returned is when I do not appear for work one day. I live alone and, as my mind will no longer be my own, I will not be able to telephone you. I will also be unable to answer any call you may make to me. I have a friend who contacts me every evening to see how I am and when I do not answer her call she will come round to see how I am. It will be her who contacts you the following day.”
And there you have it, an abusive end to an abusive process where I am obliged to expose the full extent of my vulnerability to a complete stranger who is highly unlikely to use that information to my advantage.
So, if we successfully negotiate the minefield of interview and shortlist, what next.
No matter how understanding, compassionate, and accepting the people who offered us employment might have been we now have to pass the work colleague test. The examples I quoted above from the experience of both Patricia and myself referred to callous and premeditated bullying by individuals, it is probably true that they would have happened regardless of the culture of those particular workplaces which might otherwise have been friendly, welcoming environments.
However, it is surprising how quickly friendliness, understanding, and goodwill can vanish when employment culture collides with disability culture. The interest that was initially shown whenever we needed to go early or start late because of our regular checkups, treatments, consultations, therapy etc, will disappear quite quickly once our need for a late start or an early finish clashes with the needs of other members of staff. There will also be unnecessary and unwarranted probing should we need to phone in because we have a cold, flu, toothache.
As soon as any of these things begin to impinge on the needs of our co-workers we will become aware of the conversations that stop as soon as we enter a room and of the whispering that begins whenever we are in the vicinity.
In my direct experience these things happen even faster if an employer has made modifications to the work environment or purchased special equipment to enable us to take up employment with them. I can remember withstanding a torrent of abuse and unwarranted criticism because I was perceived to be receiving special treatment when my employer, on the advice of an occupational health specialist, supplied me with an orthopaedic chair.
Bullying of the disabled is endemic in the world of "Employment". It begins with the knowledge that an invitation to a biased, insensitive, and for some, physically painful Work Capability Assessment interview, will be on its way at some unidentified point in the future. It will continue during the assessment where the disabled person will be humiliated, bullied, disbelieved, and asked to perform in ways that circuses have been outlawed from asking animals to do.
The "Equality Act 2010" appears to have removed some aspects of bullying and humiliation from the employment interview process but it allows these elements to be introduced immediately afterwards if the disabled person was successful at the interview.
Regardless of the willingness of an employer to provide a paid opportunity for a person with disability, unless all the staff in a particular workplace shares the mindset of the employer, the life of the employed person with disability can be miserable, abusive, and psychologically harmful.
Whenever the common illnesses such as stomach upset or the common cold afflict the disabled person they will be faced with an interrogation and an air of disbelief when they return.
The death knell will begin to ring when the employer, beaten into submission by the complaints and remarks of the rest of the employees, gives up the fight and leaves the disabled person to the mercy of those complaining colleagues in the hope that the disabled person will tire of the abuse and leave.
The differences between "Work" and "Employment" are numerous. The competitive world of paid employment is littered with hazards and traps that can drive persons without disability away from a particular workplace.
It is an unfair process that expects a person with significant impairment to survive in such an environment. It is a dangerous process that expects a person with significant impairment to daily face up to an environment which is hostile to their own coping strategies and which endlessly reminds them of the things they are unable to do. It is an abusive process which erodes resilience, self belief, and confidence.
In short, it is bullying.
A contribution the BrokenofBritain campaign: DWP45: Fit For Work
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
I was following this discussion on a message board I subscribe to. My Colleagues Alan and Julia do not blog: I feel very privileged that they have allowed me to pass on their thoughts:
Needless to say, I have very little liking for market-led welfare reform's 'policy-based evidence-gathering'.
I would also add that a major difference between my experience of jobseeking as opposed to my experience of volunteering, is that the volunteering posts that I went for were generally on a much less competitive basis.
From Alan Wheatley
A WORKING LIFE-LONG DISABLED VOLUNTEER SAYS INCREASING COERCION WITH FEWER AVAILABLE RESOURCES TO SUPPORT HIM LED HIM FROM JSA TO ESA WHILE ACHIEVING ONLY SEVENTEEN MONTHS CUMULATIVE WAGED EMPLOYMENT FROM NOV. 1977 TO MARCH 2009.
A GENUINE JOBSEEKER HIGHLIGHTS THE FLAW OF CHEAPSKATE GOVT AND PROFITERS CAUSE HUMAN MISERY BY FOCUSING ON, AND LABELLING NUMBERS OF IB CLAIMANTS AS 'A BURDEN'.
There are now fewer real jobs for disabled people than when I was told by a Manpower Service Commission-run Employment Rehabilitation Centre in 1978 (at age 24) that I was too slow to ever benefit from further govt-funded education and training. Yet I have an invisible disability and an innate determination to develop and use whatever skills I do have, and experienced decades of serial lack of pro-active support from the jobcentre toward prospect of my getting Invalidity Benefit [the predecessor to Incapacity Benefit].
I learned long ago that the system is particularly likely to disregard the eligibility of people with invisible disabilities to disability benefits. Yet people outside waged employment have been subjected to reduced bargaining power and increased coercion, as well as a barrage of smear stories. With the self-realisation in my late-50s that three decades on jobseeker benefits have been counter-productive and left me impoverished and in student debt I am not likely to be able to pay back, my stress levels and anxieties have increased to the point that I now claim DLA as well as ESA while privatisation of the welfare state is creating a welfare state for increasingly wealthy exploiters of human misery who milk public revenues to the tune of billions of pounds.
From the Thatcher years onward, govt-funded training and higher education became subverted as means to massage the unemployment figures while the per-capita investment in the individuals engaging on such courses plummeted. When I did eventually enter university, even with extra time in exams I under-performed to the point that my eventual degree has never helped me get waged work but saddled me with an initial £4K student debt in 1997 that has risen to over £5K on account of interest on unpaid student debt. (And that was from the days when there was still a Mandatory Award!)
In the year 2000 after I had developed my computing skills mainly through my mum's investment in a computer for myself as a much slower learner, I managed to pass the entry test to get an offer of a place on a Web Development course at a 'Positive About Disabled People' training provider. Objecting to the discovery that there was no guaranteed offer of a training placement, and the fact that the training period was just six weeks for such a demanding course-load, I was then told that the course had been twelve weeks long until the Blair govt directed the training provider to halve the training period so as to double the amount of throughput from the dole queue. (And it should be noted that as 'Positive About Disabled People' and 'Investors in People' awards are adjudicated by govt, the status of the training provider regarding those awards was undiminished.)
In the years 1972-1977 I had had seamless but unfulfilling salaried employment at Cadbury-Schweppes in Birmingham, where co-workers likened me to 'Frank Spencer' in the TV sitcom 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em'. I left on health-grounds to await a place on a govt-funded training course for disabled people, but got subverted into attending a 'vocational assessment period'. Subsequently disillusioned by statutory provisions, I have found that continued time on my own for self-directed learning has been helpful to my health, as has limited hours per week volunteering. Market-led welfare reforms -- in my experience -- only serve the interests of wealthy exploiters of human misery.
Attendance at A4e Holloway New Deal in 2008, by dint of my length of unemployment after leaving 11 months part-time waged employment as a social care worker, operated as aversion therapy for me regarding continued jobsearch on JSA. Concluding that I would rather die than be forced to return to A4e, I sought and obtained help from a local mental health charity toward getting ESA and DLA. I eventually won a tribunal that over-turned Atos/DWP '0' points eligibility points award based on a WCA report that failed to mention my decades of unwaged status before my last waged post, or the fact that that waged work had been so part-time that it was done as a JSA claimant only allowed to keep the first £5 pe week earnings from six hours waged work. The tribunal awarded me 21 points and put me in the (preparation for employment) Support Group.
Needless to say, I have very little liking for market-led welfare reform's 'policy-based evidence-gathering'.
I would also add that a major difference between my experience of jobseeking as opposed to my experience of volunteering, is that the volunteering posts that I went for were generally on a much less competitive basis.
A great many job applications provide no feedback whatever and that is bad for the jobseekers' self-esteem. Scheme providers far too frequently advise jobseekers in their 'care' to focus on quantity of job applications, rather than quality. With a training company called 'Direct Computer Training' in 1998, I was told off for not having submitted a 'job-search portfolio' with a minimum of 16 'job leads', whereas in fact the one written job application I recorded for that week had involved several hours of editing my CV and a whole weekend drafting and re-drafting my handwritten covering letter as specified in the job ad (six drafts!). And that weekend's work was rewarded with a job interview for a higher grade post than that I applied for. Yet I'm very glad that I was not appointed. The Sheffield-based company expanding into London happened to be A4e!
At A4e in 2008, as part of the 'soft skills training sessions', the rhetoric of the 'Client Advisers' was, "The more jobs you apply for, the better your chances. Ten [sic] job applications per day is good." To achieve that, they advised 'beneficiaries' [A4e's name for those abducted from the dole queue to enter their doors] to send copies of the same CV for each job application -- much the same as we were advised at 'Direct Computer Training'.
By contrast, consider the relevance to jobseeking of what Abraham Lincoln was attributed to have said by songwriting skills adviser Tom T Hall. Lincoln said that he could speak for an hour extemporarily about any subject upon request; but for him to write a memorable three minute speech could take him several days.
How many minutes does an overloaded recruiter spend in sorting the 'long-shot' CVs from those that s/he will bin? Therefore, how much more time does the jobseeker — especially the disabled jobseeker — need to devote to creating a CV that will get them an interview? Would it not be better all round if there was less coercion for people to apply for jobs that they are not really suited to, and for which they are only applying as a response to somebody's ridiculous quota?
(Since Alan wrote this reasearch has emerged from Australia demonstrating that paeople who are obliged to work in the "wrong job" suffer psycological damage and are prone to mental illness. BB)
By contrast, properly supported volunteers with adequate supervision can gain much greater self-esteem. Public service job cuts of the kind that even New Labour have in mind are not the way forward. I have been told that more privatisation of public services went on under New Labour than under the Thatcher Govt. Privatisation emphasises corporate profit, not protecting vulnerable people with adequate resources
Alan Wheatley, age 57
Julia responded to Alan’s Comments
Your story of employment and being labelled early on sounds very much like my Cousin
He was in the 'Special Unit' in primary school due to his violent tantrums, they discovered way down the line he has very poor sight, is severely dyslexic and dyspraxic and much later (as an adult) aspergers has been mentioned. John was always the 'slow' one, your reference to Frank Spencer made me smile, this was how people referred to my Cousin, they still do if they remeber 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em'.
He left school at 16 and got an apprenticeship in a bicycle shop (he'd been obsessed by bikes and toy cars, taking them apart, putting them together all his life), he lasted until the employer could finish him and moved onto the next, and the next. I don't remember how many apprenticeships / part apprenticeships he went through. He eventually started a degree in Computing, it took him years and years to finish part time, he did have some support due to his diagnosed disabilities by then.
He got a job in a small family owned computer assembling circuit boards firm, he's still there all these years later. The company was sold on a couple of times & John has been kept on as the cheap labour who also makes tea, works long hours and doesn't mind the piss being taken out of him. Always on the same shitty minimum wage salary
John won't move on, at my instigation he did apply for another job a couple of years back, of course by the time he'd perfected and perfected the application form (4 months later), the job was well gone. If he loses this job he's very little chance of securing anything else.
Sorry I've gone on, I just feel a wave of anger when I remember what happened / is still happening to John.
My disability was actually diagnosed in 1960 [age six-and-a-half] as "mild cerebral palsy with some oedema." But in latter years I have found that dyspraxia [not in the diagnostic books in 1960] is more likely to apply but has not been formally diagnosed. I attended mainstream schooling, with 'A' stream at secondary school and ended in the Upper Sixth Year with more qualifications than my subsequent foods laboratory co-workers did, but fewer qualifications than my upper sixth peers. My lab assistant co-workers complained that as I was slower than them, the boss offloaded my tasks on them. They talked long in works hours about the failings of the union pay scale, but never found the time to attend union meetings outside works hours.
Unlike John, I would have preferred to leave the unsatisfying work environment (foods laboratory) much earlier than I did. My mum and my Gran kept advising me to stay with the 'job security' while I did not want to over-burden them by disclosing the level of verbal bullying I experienced at work. I had built up that habit of non-disclosure since my secondary schooling after the first year class teacher had told my classmates to "make special allowances" for me on account of diagnosed cerebral palsy. (I had not known till the 4th year when a friend told me that I had not needed to tell (["confess to [sic])" him that I had been "born slightly spastic [sic]," that the source of classmates taunts of "Weakly's a mongol spastic" had not been based on their own observations.)
I entered secondary school in 1965 in a different local education authority only months after my father had left us [my mother, my two sisters, and me]. It was through my own self-development work through singing classes and learning to play recorder that I learned to listen to myself more so as to make the 't' sound in 'Wheatley' properly. I do find that when I am most stressed, I am less able to monitor and correct my own performance.
My sisters and mother reckon I have Aspergers Syndrome, a Professor in Speech & Language Therapy friend reckons that dyspraxia is much more likely [although the two are not mutually exclusive].
I can identify strongly with painstaking approach to job application forms, although not quite severely as John.
Many thanks for your story Alan,
John is 48 now so was just a few years behind you in the education system of the 60's / early 70's.
He still lives with his dad (his mum died in 2007), I don't think he would have survived had he needed support from 'services'.
I think John bought into the 'job security' mantra years ago. If his 'job' disappeared, it would be like tearing a security blanket from a child. Shitty as it is, I fear he would be lost without it, the getting up in the morning & following the boring, sameness exploitive routine of it.
He also likes music, used to play the guitar (loudly as I remember!!!), now devotes his time to Saturday night karaoke in the local pub with his dad!!
I was very touched by these emails so I wrote to Allan & Julia asking: "do you blog? If not I'll happily put your two testimonies (minus names if you wish) unedited onto my blog and then push them on Twitter. I am not a blog "star" I average about 200 hits per blog, but some of my "audience" are journalists and influential people who spread the content further. I would be honoured to give a voice to your thoughts, it can be done by tomorrow."
Alan said yes: Julia expressed the fear of all disabled people and those who know them:
You can use John's story as you see fit so long as he can't be identified, which he wouldn't be just with his forename. (To comply with Julia's wish both John's and her own name have been changed along with two other details that could lead to his identification. BB)
My fear is that he will lose his shitty job due to this 'recession' & be tossed to ultimately fail on the big benefit scrounging scum scrap-heap.
I’ve nothing to add. It’s all been said.