disability

The Hunger by Rachel Plummer

A family we know have just had their lives changed irrevocably. She worked as a school administrator, had been there for fifteen years. He was a sparky who ran his own small business with his son as an apprentice. Last summer, he had a massive stroke; he is unable to move one side of his body and is having to learn to speak again. He is in his forties. She had to give up her job to look after him, and their son has to find a new job. They are not well off, they don’t own their own home. Their future will be a struggle, and for the first time they will have to engage with the welfare system.

benefits_17I fear for them therefore, because the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is, unsurprisingly, falling well short of people’s ability to manage on the financial assistance provided. A survey has just come out from a national coalition of disability organisations, which shows that two thirds of claimants, not only felt they were not being given enough to live on, but that because of this they were falling ill. Of course, this creates a vicious circle because they then need medical assistance. The government denies this; their own survey found that 83% were satisfied – but even if we split the difference, it still means around 40% of people are struggling. (more…)

Permission, Disability, Stairs and Whispers, and a poem by Nuala Watt

I only came across the term ‘permission’ in regards of writing when being mentored by Jo Bell. Her wonderful project, 52 had given over five hundred writers the safe space to share their poetry with others in a similar position; the project had essentially given many of them permission to write. Recently I received a different type of permission when attending the Stairs and Whispers event at Ledbury Poetry Festival; the permission to accept that I have a disability.

Stairs and Whispers COVERThis was the launch of the anthology of “D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back”, edited by Sandra Alland, Khairani Barokka and Daniel Sluman, and published by Nine Arches Press. From the perspective of someone whose hearing and sight is not particularly impaired the event was a multi-media experience of poetry films, readings, and questions, supported by sign, subtitles, and the full text of poems. The editors described themselves for those with sight impairment, and in a large hall it felt like the most intimate and captivating experience.

However, it was only afterwards, when I went away, sat in a café and took a breath that it resonated with me more personally. I have a number of autoimmune conditions; Addison’s Disease, Underactive Thyroid, secondary hypopituitarism (causing low testosterone), low Vitamin D, along with asthma, high cholesterol, chronic fatigue, periodic chronic pain, and depression. I am lucky, as I don’t have to rely on welfare, beyond NHS treatment and free prescriptions, and there are times when I am relatively healthy and able to exercise. So I have had no need to register as disabled and go through the horrendously cruel process that the austerity government has implemented in the past seven years.

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