Fearful For the Future Spartacus Report

I bet you’re all sick of hearing me talk about this but it’s an integral part of my life right now. If the government goes through with not only the cuts but the redesigned DLA [PIP], I’ll struggle to continue to live independently. What is more, I’ll struggle to achieve my dreams that I am working toward over the next few years? I don’t want to be on benefits. I want to work, to have my own house, to live a full and successful life. What the government is choosing to do will effect my chances. I was born with a sight impairment. The condition I have is Primary Congenital glaucoma. It was caused by an untreated water infection at the time of my conception. I didn’t ask to be born blind. Nor did my parents. But I was born with no vision in the right eye and functional vision in the left but the drainage channels that drain fluid from the back of the eye didn’t exist when I was born so at seven weeks old, I was carried by a nurse to theatre where I was to begin a long journey of operations to construct channels and drain the fluid which was incredibly painful. I had to have 4 lots of drops in per day. I was in and out of hospital for the first six years of my life, at which age the retina detached. In 1989-1990, the doctors tried to save my eyesight, even at Europe’s top eye hospital at the time but my optic nerve had gone pale and my lights went out. I had a few operations after that but none of which regained any sight. I attended a mainstream school, achieved A-C grades at a comprehensive high school, then went onto one of the top sixth form colleges in England at the time and came away with two Bs and a C and D in my A-Levels. Life got complicated after that and I realised how cruel the world could be. Without going into detail, I didn’t feel supported at the university I chose and when I went to the US, on an exchange programme, I did relatively well. I couldn’t continue my degree back in England for even more reasons and planned, if I could get funding, to study in the US. Sadly, this didn’t happen but I reapplied for a university in the UK in 2005 and after receiving my Guide Dog in 2006, started another journey on which I was hopeful. The support at this university was even more abysmal than my first, which I never thought possible. The tutors, despite having my information and details about being a blind student, never gave me the work in advance. Maybe, looking back, I should have let my pride go and asked for a support worker but I was far too independent for that. I’d survived the US alone. Never having someone enter my classes with me but the professors, on the whole always managed to get my work to the Disability services office for them to transcribe into electronic or record in audio. Straying slightly, the problem here is that a third body negotiates all of this and tutors and professors are not engaged with their students and the disability services only set up the initial contact and only ever deal with payment after that. That was my most recent experience anyway. Maybe other unis do it differently. So I was signed off sick with stress by my doctor and deferred but I didn’t see how a year would make a difference and pulled out. Another failure I felt. I hated it so much and then applied to the Royal National College for the Blind in 2007. I figured, if a mainstream place couldn’t help, surely a college designed for the blind could. And in some ways, they did and in others they didn’t. I came away with a holistic therapy qualification but that was it. I looked for work, but to be a holistic therapist, you also often had to be a beautician. I felt like another avenue was closing on me again. So in 2009, after getting over a year long worth of low mood, I with the help of a lovely friend, found a course at the University of wales that wouldn’t cost me anything to do and I would come away with a degree in voluntary sector studies. I felt, working within the charity sector was my best way of moving forward and getting into work. I was doing so well on this degree. Studying at home, with all the course material to hand. I didn’t have a lot of books but still managed to get 2.2s, 2.1s and even once a 1ST. I was so happy and pleased with this course and past my first year with flying colours. Then the unfortunate news that we had to pay due to changes in the funding. I couldn’t afford to do it and in retrospect, glad I didn’t as last year, the university dissolved and I would have just been approaching my third year. So since that end of study, I’ve been looking for the next step. Working, studying, etc? I looked at my local college and found a course I would like to do but they only start in September and honestly, it’s within complimentary therapies and unless I used it alongside another career, it would be useless to me. Then last year, we heard all the talk of the changes with the Welfare Reform bill. When this government came to power, I truly believed that when they said they wouldn’t touch the disabled and vulnerable, they wouldn’t. Boy was I wrong! They’re targeting us all hard despite what they think. RNIB fought for years to allow blind people to apply for the higher rate mobility component. Getting around as a blind person is hard. I trip over cracks in the pavements, I have to get help crossing busy roads if there is no crossing; I have to use a tracking device to tell me when to get off of a bus as bus drivers often forget and I could become stranded; I rely on a dog to navigate the streets and shops and other places; I sometimes need to get a taxi if I don’t know the area and am going alone; I have to rely on kindness of strangers to help me around blockages on pavements, I.E. Road works. So getting about is not that easy. Shopping for food and clothes is hard and although you can often get assistance, they may not know the exact thing you mean unlike a family member or friend. I often feel, if I ask someone to go with me somewhere like I should pay them at least cost of travel and buy them lunch as they’ve gone out of their way to help me. So after all that fighting, the government want to say to me, you can’t have the higher rate mobility anymore, you’re not that disabled. Try living in my world and others with visual impairments for a day and tell us the same. And daily living costs? I have allergenic asthma to and I am effected by dust, chemicals, pollen and excessive dog hair. If I don’t clean up, I get sick and sometimes I can’t always see the stuff I need to clean. Clothes may get stained and I would just wear them without knowing. I could put something red in a white wash that runs and everything would be then pink and I wouldn’t know about it. Labelling times I need has to be done with someone’s assistance and I can’t remember the sell by date for everything I buy so often have to check with a sighted person. I’m currently on medium rate dLA for this which is accurate but they, under the new system are getting rid of the low rate and so I’d be then on the standard rate. This government is having a laugh a minute if they think this new system is fair. This is just my story but millions of stories are like it today in Britain. If they looked at the real statistics, explored people’s real needs and made the system efficient, not less complicated as disabilities are complicated, they may be able to move forward. But they truly have to listen to the charities representing British disabled people and their families and stop bulldozing a welfare system everyone needs. If your condition is never going to change, like mine and others, then having reassessments reassessments is a waste of money. That is the plan for everyone. Disabilities are individual and if we had the choice, most of us would want to be able bodied but that’s not going to happen no matter how much you strip us of money and support. Please, UK government, reconsider and put through plans that are realistic and fair for everyone not just in your eyes. No one agrees with this bill, pushing it through will not only wreck individuals lives but destroy this country.

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