Hello all, well this is a surprise my first guest blogg… please welcome Helen Sims… and her piece…
Spartacus and Me
Dealing with hardship, discrimination, prejudice and unfairness as a disabled person isn’t new. Dealing with it on this scale at the hands of our own government is. I became involved with what is now the Spartacus Campaign before the ‘Responsible Reform Report’ was even published although I was not involved directly on writing it.
I knew something was going to happen. I knew something had to happen because there were a lot of frustrated, angry, isolated and frightened people out there (myself being one of them) that were facing uncertain futures as a result of the Coalitions plans to cut benefits.
On top of that, the negative press coverage, the governments ‘scrounger’ rhetoric had already begun and it was hurting me. That is why I joined as many disability groups and networks on Facebook as I could manage to keep track of.
I wanted to know if I was alone in feeling victimised and persecuted just because I was unfortunate enough to be born with a physical disability that means I cannot walk or even stand unaided. I was sad, but also relieved to find that I was by no means alone.
In those early posts, I discussed my frustration, anger and pain at what had been thrown at us. I was assured that something was happening, so that we could, at the very least have our say. I felt better.
Campaigning for Disability Rights isn’t new to me. I have always had a strong sense of injustice and a desire to do whatever I can to make things fairer.
As ten year old, I wrote to the then Prime Minister John Major to voice my concerns about the cuts in the Special Educational Needs budget.
I had recently transferred from my beloved ‘special school’ to a mainstream primary school and I was struggling to settle in. I was ‘different’ there. At my previous school I was just one of many people with a disability. I had been bullied there for a while, granted, because I frequently got my work done early and was able to spend my time writing stories or helping my friends.
The bullies didn’t like that, but it was settled by the time I left so it broke my heart to leave, but I know my parents made the right choice for me.
When I heard about those cuts, I remember being outraged and panicked for the friends I had left behind. How would some of the worst affected children cope if they were forced into a mainstream school situation, without the care and help they needed? Society didn’t cater for us, and I knew it.
Propelled by some unknown force within me, I sat and wrote my letter. The next day, my Mum posted it.
I’ve been writing letters about various different disability related issues ever since. Some have got me local press coverage and support, some have been left unanswered.
For me, it is the latter that says it all. It has gone on happening but I never dreamed back then that I would feel as ignored, victimised and hurt as I do now and that’s why joining what became Spartacus is so important to me.
When you campaign alone, it can seem like you’re getting nowhere and I was tired of being ignored. As the pressure and worry of being reassessed and possibly losing my Disability Living Allowance began to ‘get’ to me, I sought others in a similar situation – mainly to reassure myself that I wasn’t being paranoid! I wasn’t!
When the ‘Spartacus Report’ was published, I worked to promote it, writing to Lords and MP’s and sending it everywhere I could think of. I had an overwhelming feeling of taking some power back and regaining control in a situation that was against me.
Had it not been for Spartacus and the wonderful, warm and supportive people I have met, I probably would have given up campaigning altogether.
I was beginning to feel so alone in the struggle and the relentless attack on us by the media and government, even at that point was beginning to erode the fragile self esteem I have fought for. It still is, but I am not alone anymore.
Cerebral Palsy does not make life easy. There is constant pain as well as lack of mobility. There is exhaustion and difficulty every day. I want more than anything to be a mother, have a job, and live a normal life. I want to do the things others take for granted, but I don’t have those options and it’s not my fault.
Spartacus has given me a sense of purpose that I felt was somewhat lacking before. Even though I have a wonderful marriage and my writing, there were so many pieces missing.
Spartacus and the online family I have found through it is so important to me now. It’s become so much more than the ‘Responsible Reform Report’ and so much more than I ever thought it would be. I will always be grateful for that.
Blogging Against Disablism Day…