2 Feeling broody. And daunted! 

Having a child. Daunting and scary at the best of times. Throw in both parents having a disability and the plot thickens. Whilst away, I like to use the time to reflect on my life, the things in it and how they are going. Last night, I was struck by a thought, which I expressed to Fran:

I thought about going to the cricket and the football as dad has with me. I want someone to go with. I may not know everything but I’ve got some good stuff to pass on and want to do so

It’s something we’ve contemplated for a while. My sister gave birth to my brilliant little niece last year and it’s been a privilege to be a part of the joy, richness and fun that she has bought into our lives.

I’m told that having your first born is one heck of a mission though. For us it would be that and then some. We’d need full time support for the first few months, and a well oiled operation to see us through.

Writing this, I’m also aware that some people might question our practical abilities as parents and even the fairness of bringing a little one into the world. I get that, and see why people would but I would respectfully disagree. There is no doubt in my mind that we can provide a safe, happy and healthy environment.

All of that isn’t to say things aren’t daunting though. I’ve always said that being a parent is the most important thing that I’d ever do if the opportunity ever arose. We’re also lucky to be in a position to be parents though, all things being well.

We have a social services review coming up and it’s one of the things we intend to discuss. Doubtless social services will take a keen interest in our plans. We’ll be closely assessed. There is that to be ready for too. 

What I do know too is that we’re resilient and resourceful. We’ll also be absolutely surefooted in our decisions, and supported by a wonderful family and friends. 

We shall see. For now, I’m just feeling broody and daunted!!:)

Accessible housing and the difference it makes 

About 8 months ago, life wasn’t great. In our house, things were getting increasingly hard. Fran was off her feet and couldn’t get upstairs so was confined to the lounge. The rest of the house inaccessible.

We needed to move. We needed a bungalow. We were fortunate to be able to put our house on the market and that the offers came rolling in swiftly. Now just to find that bungalow.  However, they were in all too short a supply where we lived. We were going to need to move away.  It was really hard to leave an area we knew well, with a local support system, not to mention the house we had our post wedding celebration in, but needs must.

It was really hard to leave an area we knew well, with a local support system, not to mention the house we had our post wedding celebration in, but needs must.

As we’re both able to drive, moving further afield was an option. Widening our search, we spotted one bungalow in a more rural area. I was hesitating as it was quite remote, but there weren’t many bungalows to choose from. Lots of those that we did see also needed a lot of work doing to them. Lots just didn’t suit us at all as people with modern taste and an aversion to 60’s decor in keeping with the age of former owners!  I don’t imagine what we’d have done had we not been able to drive.

So we head to the bungalow. Fran, using her chair, literally had to crawl inside as there was no ramp of any sort. Once there though, the house worked and was ready to move into. We knew we needed to move quickly to get this rare gem and within minutes we’d put an offer in. Scary but true.  One of the biggest (and certainly most expensive!) judgement calls we’d ever make having to be made in what felt like a split second.

Within minutes, we had to decide whether to put an offer in to secure a rare suitable bungalow for us…one of the biggest calls we’d ever make made in a split second

Fast forward six months, and our accessible house has immeasurably improved our lives. We can actually use all of the house and feel liberated, as opposed to imprisoned by it.  I’d recommend living in a bungalow to anyone and think it’s a real shame there is such a shortage of them.  Moving has been a complete mission, and we’re really grateful for the support of Fran’s PA’s, who were vital in making it possible.

Every day Fran and I are thankful for the pleasure an accessible home (in every sense of the word!) brings and think everyone should have the opportunity to experience it.

Disability and employment 

Statistically, I’m an exception.  Why?  As I am lucky enough to be in full-time work and I am a disabled person.

It saddens me that this is the case, but the stats tell the story.  For me, being able to work means a lot.  It gives me the chance to make a positive difference, a sense of accomplishment and routine, all of which are really important.  I have had spells both working for myself (something quite common for disabled people) and as an employee so can see the merits of both.

Working though is a choice and has an impact.  I know people who actively choose not to, or don’t have the opportunity to work.  The contribution that many disabled people make through volunteering is also significant and should be more widely recognised. It can also be a means to gain experience and softer skills needed as a bit of a stepping stone, or as an end its own right.

The impact of work means that I have to make choices.  This weekend, it has meant doing very little at all.  I have not strayed far from bed as I’ve sought to rest my weary body.  It’s not something I like doing at all but it means I’m good to go again come the start of the week, ready to try to make that difference.

Writing this blog has been a bit tricky, but I decided to do so in order to raise awareness.  I’d also say that the sense of fulfilment that you get from work is great.  A few people I know have been discouraged from working, which I think is a shame.  To be clear – I’m not saying everyone should work, but if you want to, you should be given the opportunity to do so.

That said, the impact of work does have a flip side and the physical demands it can exert should not be underestimated.  Behind every disabled person there is a story and a complex range of factors that make up what is going on.  Each day can vary too depending on circumstances.

There is a huge gap between between the number of disabled people who want to work and the considerably fewer number who have a job. Being able to work is one of the most important and valuable things in my life. I’d like other disabled people who want to experience that feeling to be able to do so.

 

Disability and the Tory Leadership Contest

Recent discussion of the candidates for the leadership of the Conservative party have left me with one question: What do the candidates think about disability issues?

A snapshot analysis* of voting records and speeches makes grim reading for disabled people. The headline for me is that regardless of the winner, its unlikely to be good news.  I reach this conclusion with reference to how the candidates have voted regarding welfare issues, as categorised by theyworkforyou.com:

Crabb Fox Gove Leadsom May
Issue
Bedroom Tax  x  x x  x  x
Raising welfare benefits  x  x  x  x  x
Longterm sickness unemployment support  x  x  x  x  x
Council tax support  x  x  x  x  x

 

What this analysis shows is that all candidates are:

  • Pro bedroom tax
  • Against providing greater levels of welfare support to those including disabled people

It gets more interesting when you look at the speeches of the leadership candidates.  This shows that Gove has not mentioned disability since November 2013, followed by May in February 2014 and Fox in July 2015. 

Arguably the two leading contenders for leadership of the Conservative party have not spoken about disability for at least two years.

Faring slightly better are Leadsom who mentioned disability in relation to Energy policy in March of this year and Crabb.   Crabb has spoken the most of all candidates in relation to disability issues and has recently addressed disability employment issues in his speeches.

Overall though, it appears that disability issues do not feature highly in the leadership contenders agendas. It will be interesting to see if more emerges through media appearances and press coverage as the campaigning continues.

*A note on methodology

In order to compile the above I used www.theyworkforyou.com.  I looked at voting records on welfare issues and searched speeches using the term ‘disability.’  Though this is a snapshot, as opposed to an exhaustive study (and thus has some limitations), it does pose some interesting questions!

 

Brexit: Gutted and worried

A week ago today, i’m still coming to terms with what happens and what it all means.  The purpose of this post is to share what it means for me.

I know that as I write this my views will be contentious.  So let me just say at the outset that I do 1. Respect the result and 2. Respect those of you who hold different views.  We may just have to agree to disagree on this one, and thats fine by me.

I am both gutted and worried.  Gutted because I thought we wouldn’t be here in lots of different ways.  We have witnessed a campaign that was frankly ugly, divisive and unhelpful. Objectivity lost in polarizing debate, a bewildering haze of claim and counterclaim crafted to be sound bite friendly.  So much for any substance. Where else would we find a debate over such an important issue reduced to such a level? I had hoped we could do so much better.

Evident to me was a lack of leadership and quality from our politicians at a time when it was needed arguably more so than ever before in recent history.  The horrific death of MP Jo Cox bought a brief period of measured sentiment, but that was all too quickly lost.  We would do well to reflect on this.

Scared?  Why scared?  Scared that we are in the midst of taking a leap into the unknown.  Scared because as a disabled person, I know what a devastating impact austerity has already had.  This looks set to continue with pressure on the public purse and challenging economic conditions.  Austerity has frankly been used as an excuse to target the most vulnerable people in society.  PIP, the bedroom tax, and cuts to social care funding have had a devastating impact on and for disabled people in general.

Where was the discussion of the impact of Brexit on disabled people in the mainstream debates?

So what now?  We must make the best of the hand we have been dealt.  We also must work hard to ensure that we find common ground, retaining respect for each other and valuing the diversity in our country.  We have to also ensure that the most vulnerable people in society are heard do not further suffer as they have done under austerity.

I hope I don’t have to be gutted for too much longer, and that our ‘independence day’ doesn’t do more harm than good.

 

So what?

So another person has launched a blog?  So what?  Well.

Writing a blog is something I’ve been mulling over for a while.  Having a voice is something its easy to take for granted, but after the events surrounding Brexit in the last few days I feel that expressing what that voice says is more important than ever before.

This is especially the case as a disabled person?  Why?  Well the reality is that in these turbulent times, disabled people are arguably more in need of an ability to express that voice than ever before.  That said, this is just my voice.  There are many others, and doubtless many will disagree with the views I express.  To me, thats fine.  Its through constructively engaging with each other that we’ll learn and (hopefully) become more cohesive as a society when there is arguably more division than ever before.

Even identifying as a disabled person is, and has been, something of a struggle. Why? My disability doesnt define me, its part of who I am.  I also don’t claim to speak for other disabled people who may have different experiences and hold different views.  For me though, beginning to highlight that disabled voice is of real value, and I hope that by highlighting the issues that matter to me, I can at least make other people think and raise some awareness in a positive way.

 

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