My story is just one of many, & my pain is small, compared to many people’s suffering from health problems & government & media demonization of people with disabilities.
I learned a lot during some years in the ‘care’ system following family break-up, particularly after being robbed of my 11-Plus pass entitlement to grammar school by a psychiatrist working for Social Services; his skewed opinion meant that I had to start at the bottom of a Secondary Modern school, & go up in steps. Even though it was clear from week one that the top stream would be appropriate, I had to go up in steps, so it took over a year to reach the ‘A’ stream. There was some emotional & sexual abuse in the children’s home, but it wasn’t a hell-hole like many kids had to endure. In 4th year, I was fostered, & got a scholarship to a much better school, posher, but scruffier. I learned in both schools that children in ‘care’ are stigmatized, whatever their actions.
I dropped out of college at 17, after struggling to survive on a maintenance allowance, & was proud to earn my living in factories, mostly high-tech Cambridge works that were thriving at the time. Intermittent depression was a hindrance, but didn’t stop me working. Later my job was running a small factory making communication devices for people with speech impairment, building, testing, & mending the machines. I brought up three step-children whose mothers weren’t able for looking after their offspring, working all the time, except when No1 Stepson was before school age.
Over time, any prejudices I’d learned in school fell away, & assessments of people became more practical, based on their actions towards others, whatever their faith or orientation.
In 2000, I was working in an engineering factory in my village when severe neck pain struck, & despite trying to return to work, it recurred, & was found by X-ray to be caused by cervical spondylosis trapping nerves, so the firm laid me off as unable. Since then, I’ve tried the ‘New Deal’, where an advisor told me to hide the condition, which is degenerative, tried to return to paid work, which was not possible, as the condition is variable & very tiring, & accompanied by troublesome symptoms which prevent me standing or sitting still without locking up. Part-time voluntary work for home-bound, blind, & disabled people has gone fairly well, except for being unable to assist disabled people physically, but it’s rewarding, & being unable for work some days isn’t likely to get a volunteer the sack! I worked with a local Amnesty International Group for years, with four years spent as its Chairman.
After the Tory/LibDem Coalition was formed in 2005, government & media propaganda against people with disabilities & health problems which had started mildly under New Labour was stepped up to outright information war.
In October 2011, a highly flawed Atos/DWP assessment found me fit for work, which would be true, if there were any jobs locally (because travelling hurts a wrecked spine) which took account of pain & disability, & allowed a person in pain to rest the afflicted part, or accepted work at half to two-thirds the speed of a person who’s fully able, but Remploy is being closed, & there are no other supported industries. Many jobs now want more than fit people can manage.
Inspired by a friend’s horror story of bullying by an alleged Atos health professional, I started a Facebook Group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/dabsdga/ , to offer escort to people facing Atos ‘assessment’ (in reality an inhumane & often degrading computer system which has found dying people ‘fit for work’); many great, knowledgeable, volunteers came forward to help, & the Group soon became more for guidance through the pitfalls of a labyrinthine benefits system designed to fail the people most needing help. Working with many people with complex physical & mental problems has brought awareness that the Atos/DWP solution is costing this country more in human suffering and money than having supported work schemes, or helping people do much-needed community work. There are on average five fit people for every job offered, depending on area, & there is no way for unfit people could compete for paid jobs, especially when firms are able to access unpaid ‘Workfare’ labour, subsidized by taxpayers, indefinitely.
I’m hoping that you’ll share your inspiring and positive energy with the world through my Give ‘em Hope Campaign. The Give ‘em Hope Campaign is an inspirational online video initiative to inspire and uplift those who feel marginalised or isolated. We exist to bring hope to those who need it most. The campaign was founded by David E Watters in early 2011 and has grown, with the support of numerous international cheerleaders and proactive participants. Stage Two of the campaign has included written stories of HOPE from those who have freed themselves from limiting labels and who can now celebrate their individuality.
Write your story or make and send your video to: DavidWatters@nbiassociates.co.uk
Here is a link to the fb group for more info: https://www.facebook.com/groups/GiveEmHope/