2016 So Far – An AFJ Summary

Saturday 22 October, 2016

Hello Everyone who may or may not be reading this. It has been a while, yet again. I still don’t have a desk so I still can’t type in comfort, and so for a few months there, the priority of typing went to my essays, which I had to write to pass my first year of university. It was very difficult, let me tell you.

So, by the time I had any time to spare, so much had happened that I didn’t even know where to start. On top of my own personal ups and downs which slowed me down, this country went through so much in so little time that we could make a whole new version of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire based on the last 6 months alone. By the time I was able to get down my thoughts and feelings about an event of whatever sort, people had already moved on and somebody else had written my thoughts and feelings in a much better way than what I would have done.

So what exactly has happened through the year so far and why couldn’t I have written about it at the time? Well, if you read on, you’ll find out.

First of all, Ian Duncan Smith Resigned. Huzzah!

Apparently all he ever wanted to do was to help disabled and poor people into work. And the proof is clearly in the pudding with their Concentration Camp motto (Work sets you free!), the sanctions leaving people without money to attend the job centre or job interviews, sanctioning people for going to job interviews on the same day as a job centre appointment (despite people informing the job centre and being given the AOK by the person on the phone). God forbid you had a heart attack on the same day as a job centre appointment or a work capability assessment.

I said Good Riddance to IDS, but knew that whoever replaced him would be the same, or worse.  (Different Monkey, same old zoo).  And whilst I was saying good riddance to him, I was also dedicating as much time as I could to writing an essay on Benin Bronzes. I found that was the hardest essay I had to do, made harder by my limited time I could type for. And made even harder one night when there was an intruder in the back garden. Then I came down with the flu.

 

Then, shortly after IDS left, the Tories proposed to cut ESA by £30 to bring the Work Related Activity Group’s payments in line with Job Seekers Allowance. Here’s the problem with that, and I do believe I’m preaching to the choir when I say this but just incase there’s someone form outside of the echo chamber here: People in the Work Related Activity Group are people who are still unfit for work or only able to do minimal work. This idea that cutting a safety net in order to entice people into work does not work, and it’s really not going to work for people who can’t work in the first place. It is like putting knives on the inside of a maze that blind people have been made to walk through as a guidance technique. It’s no actual use and only hurts people. It’s unnecessary and cruel.

The problem when you’re disabled and sick is that you might have to call in sick at the last minute, have many days off for being sick or hospital appointment, or hospital stays; Or once in work, leave early or not work much for multiple days on the run. I’m not saying disabled people can’t work, because clearly many of us can, but I am saying some of us can’t no matter what accommodations are made, and some of us can only with accommodations, and employers aren’t willing to accommodate and colleagues can and do become hostile. And this has been proved time and time again by employers who employ less qualified people than the more qualified applicant who just happens to be disabled, and when they force someone out of their job by constructive dismissal. It is experienced by teachers who are told they’re being unprofessional by sitting down to teach and are not given classrooms that are wheelchair accessible; administrators who are refused accessible set ups and find the quality of their workload suffers as a result, and find complaints about their work get continually logged against them.

Despite being bounced between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, the pleas were ignored by the Tories yet again and in their own interests alone pushed the proposal through. MPs, who get paid almost £75,000 per anum, and their living expenses paid for, and feel they can’t afford £15 lunches on their salary or even 55p for a cup of horlicks have decided that disabled people, who face extra costs in life ad have no other income, should live off £73 a week.

And what was I doing whilst this was happening? I was catching up on the two and a bit weeks of Uni work that I fell behind on due to coming down with the flu. It was back to back, three lots of chapters and an essay to do for an extended deadline, and then straight onto the chapter I fell behind on, when used that week to write the essay. It was exhausting and painful, and I was slowed down yet again by a strained back that does not like me typing for very long.

“Oh but this entry is long” you might say. Well, I’ve been working on this entry since before september!

May is a bit of a blur of essay writing and ranting about Me Before You. In the days leading up to my final essay of the academic year, the world was psyched about a film many in the disabled community found insulting and offensive. The general public did not understand and did not care. People said that a film deserved to be watched in it’s own right and for people to decide for themselves whether it was disableist or not. The biggest problem with this line of thinking is that, oddly enough, people who aren’t part of a miority demographic usually fail to see the micro-aggressions set up against that demographic. This film, based on the book of the same name, essentially was about a man who was paralysed and didn’t think he had anything to live for, because life is so miserable in a wheelchair. His parents managed everything about his care, and hired him a PA, who he initially didn’t want because of the aforementioned feelings of having nothing to live for. Then he fell in love with his PA and still felt like he had nothing to live for so (Spoiler alert), so he gets an appointment with Dignitas and goes and kills himself. It was both flawed and offensive, to both disabled people and those who provide care. The main character wasn’t even played by a wheelchair user!

And may I just say, a point I didn’t see many people make: Someone who is paralysed from the neck down would absolutely have a head rest. It’s not just a support for those who can’t control their heads, it’s a safety measure to protect the tendons in the neck. Any impact to a person sitting down can throw your neck back, and with no headrest, and little control in the back to lessen the movement, the tendons can overstretch and become permanently damaged. Can you imagine driving a car without a headrest? No.

For the record, my essay was about the history of the modern holiday and I finished it with 10 days to go to the deadline. I then woke up on the day of the deadline and remembered the title was not underlined, so I had to fix that up quickly and re-send it.

In June, the Wheelchair Vs Pram debate went to the supreme court. We are still eagerly awaiting the outcome. Anything other than Wheelchair users having priority will be an insult to disabled people. I shouldn’t have to explain why, but I will:

Everybody should have equal access to public transport. Many disabled people put their lives on the line 30 years ago to get us that access to public transport, and though what we were eventually given is Still not we can call equality, it is something. One space per bus and train. Giving wheelchair users priority for that space over prams ensures that wheelchair users have equal access to get on the bus. The idea that it is first come first serve is an insult to those campaigners who fought against the establishment to get those spaces, whom without their fight we would not have those spaces for pram users to mis-use in the first place. It also makes no sense. Without ensuring wheelchair users can get that space, wheelchair users are prevented from travelling, therefore that is not equal access to travel.

We have one space between many of us, and regularly we are up against each other for that one space. Why on earth should prams, which didn’t even need a space until a wheelchair space was built into the designs, get priority? Our parents and their parents managed just fine without, with lifting folded prams on to the bus, with walking to and from places, why can’t this generation?  More importantly, if buggies need more space, why on earth aren’t parents doing the campaigning for them? Why must disabled users always have their accommodations become general use to the detriment of their lives?

Then we had the farce that was and still continues to be Brexit. We all know how that turned out. Whilst I was awaiting for the results of my final essay of the academic year, we had one of the most important decisions to make as a country. This country, which couldn’t even be trusted to name a research vessel sensibly, was instilled with the future of the United Kingdom.

People bought into the lies and those of us who faught to remain in the UK were called scare-mongerers, naysayers and bleeding hearted lefties. It apparently wasn’t about race, except people have admitted they thought they were voting to “get the immigrants out”. It was about this country being over populated, it was about the NHS buckling under the pressure of health tourists. Well, what happened to the £350million the Leave campaign promised to pay to the NHS? Oh, apparently they didn’t make that promise, it was a figment of all our imaginations.

The pound is now at it’s lowest it’s been in a very long time, people who were not born in the UK are all facing mass deportation, including the many nurses and doctors who keep the NHS functioning despite it’s chronic underfunding. And the NHS won’t be getting any money at all, despite really needing it. “Back to British Values” seems to be about taking us back to the Victorian era, with a  nice stop off to the third reich on the way.

We all know what happened after that. David Cameron Resigned. Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove and Theresa May all entered the race to become the next Prime Minister. Then Michael Gove dropped out so it was down Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. Then Andrea Leadsom made some silly remark about this country needing a mother, and because Theresa May isn’t a mother (a very sensitive issue) she couldn’t possibly understand what this country needs, and a backlash followed, and she subsequently  dropped out. Apparently not because of the comments, the timing there is just purely coincidental.

Now, I never thought Theresa May was the best person to be Prime Minister, but it has all to do with her beliefs and voting policies and nothing to do on whether she is a mother or not. I may dislike the woman, but a remark like that is just not needed or wanted. Leadership skills does not depend on motherhood.

All the same, anyone else would have been better than Theresa May, who’s voting history was worrying for the disabled, unemployed, women, children in school, teachers, people who emigrated to the UK, people born in the UK to non-British born parents, asylum seekers, and people who work for the NHS. And now she actually is Prime Minsiter, all my worries are coming true.

Whilst all that was happening in the interests of the General Public, I got some great news! My hard work and backpain paid off. I passed my first year. I also did more interview days, which were hit and miss. Mostly miss as many unsuitable people applied and people with good CVs did not turn up to their interviews.

Then we had the farce of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader the grassroot voters all voted for, having to go through another leadership election because the PLP did not want him in charge. Call me cynical, but maybe that’s because they were all Blairites and Tory Lite and a man who does believe in pandering to well paying friends frightens them. The man is not perfect by any means, but he has been one of very few labour MPs who has consistently fought for disabled people’s rights when we hardly rate a commiserating shrug from others.

He was up against Owen Smith, clearly a blairite in left clothing, who believes in austerity and the work capability assessment. Then Angela Eagle joined the race, after crying on television saying the labour party needed unifying. She cried about how awful it was to work under Corbyn because he didn’t listen to anyone… and then, she announced she was running against Corbyn, surprise surprise. Except her campaign start date was actually dated 3 days before she announced it, and a day before she cried live on air saying she was leaving because she couldn’t work under those conditions. Suspicious timing? What suspicious timing!?

She then said her life was put in danger when a brick was thrown through her office window. It was then revealed that the broken window had been there a while, and it wasn’t even Angela Eagle’s office, it was the window on the stair case shared by many offices. Then she resigned, so it was just back to being between Jeremy “Fair society for all” Corbyn and Owen “Abstained on the welfare cuts vote” Smith.

Whilst all that happened, I had one good interview day and had to choose between two very good applicants. Looking back, clearly I chose the wrong one, as the person I hired did not turn up to their first call, I couldn’t get through to them over the phone, they did nothing to contact me, and they didn’t even get in touch when I sent them a dismissal letter.

In summary of my months off from uni, I was sick a few times and bored quite frequently. I watched a lot less films than I planned to, but I did manage to read some books. My hospital appointments all came in thick and fast as multiple clinics all wanted to see me, and see me again after test and scan results went through. Days following hospital appointments were spent in bed. Twice I was at the same hospital two times in one week, and I almost had it happen again recently but I had to cancel due to being sick with the flu again. (What, you don’t get the flu twice in one year?!) My plan to get drafts off my plate and onto here fell through, as no PA meant no trips to the library to work in a more comfortable setting. Some extra physical mobility problems meant I was prevented from going further with trying to work at a desk at home.

I am now back to Uni and dreading the first essay of the academic year. The good news is, common sense prevailed and despite the purge of Corbyn voters, won with 60% of the vote.

Honest to a god I don’t believe in, I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next.

And that’s now you up to date. If you read all of this, then you, my friend, deserve a cookie.

Thank you very much for reading. If you feel there was anything I missed out, please let me know!

AFJ

Advertisements

In Memorium

Sunday 16 October, 2016

You and I have memories
Longer than the road that stretches out ahead.
1985 – 2005