- Personalisation Vs Profits – Who Wins?
- Interview with a Job Centre Advisor: sanction targets & corruption revealed
- Other People’s Children. Lest We Forget.
- Eviction letter from South Ayrshire Council threatening eviction due to rent arrears warning social work will be notified.
- Eviction letter from South Ayrshire Council threatening eviction due to rent arrears warning social work will be notified.
I have the most extraordinary, caring friendsi n the world. We all come from different backgrounds, don’t always have the opportunity to meet but we are always there for each other. This is because our paths have crossed due to disability or illness having come into our lives. The caring journey has changed us all and we are there for each other. As the condems encourage us to become more selfish and throw so much ammunition in cuts and fights for services our way we must remember that.The cuts are Ideological. They are designed to punish and force many people with disabilities and living with long term health conditions into work they are not fit for. A hundred years ago we might have been gainfully employed picking hoakum in the workhouse the modern equivalent of this is having to jump through the administrative hoops of having to qualify for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the tasks you have to perform to remain in the support group or be fit deemed fit for work.
Earlier this week I had to visit a job centre with a friend who had been sanctioned for being late for an appointment. She had been ill and not informed her advisor and found her benefit docked by £40 that is almost half of the money she is given to live on. While I was waiting in an jobcentre in the West Of Scotland I met another mum and her teenage son. It was evident he had learning difficulties and felt very uncomfortable in his surroundings. My friends have all been there being an advocate for their child. We started chatting and she explained that her son has been placed in the work related activity group (wrag) by ATOS. He has to apply for forty jobs a week to prevent him being sanctioned. She has been helping him complete the log book. If she hadn’t been, his benefit may have been stopped too. I told her about my boys and if she minded if I shared this on my blog. She said. “Aye hen this is the only way people will know.” When her son went over to speak to his advisor who was very human. They asked about a job in a huge multi national online corporation they had applied for. The advisor explained 1000s of people had applied for these jobs and that he should set up a twitter account to apply for future jobs. He replied he was trying to set up a twitter account. The advisor was being human and gently said he must do this to keep up his targets for job applications. All around other people were going through this same process. It felt to me I was in the middle of a modern day Kafka novel in which the state quietly waging war on its own citizens forcing them in situations where everything becomes a struggle and we don’t have the energy or audacity to fight on. Surviving is enough. I was speaking to a good friend who rightly reminded me how terrible that I could overhear this and I would normally agree but how else do we find out what is happening to people? The system has become so dehumanized that talking about everyone’s private affairs is acceptable if they are nothing more than a claimant. Burdens on the states don’t have rights.
In Ian Duncan Smith’s Disabled people are being classified by organizations like ATOS who subject people to disability assessments. Untrained individuals with no access to folk’s medical records make huge decisions which will have a huge impact on lives. David Barr’s son David a young man who lived with a severe mental health condition took his own life after being found fit to work by ATOS. Despite being under close medical supervision, taking anti psychotics they deemed him fit for work. He appealed with no success. His dad spoke so movingly about his son how this was the last straw and how he had just given up on life. He blamed ATOS. After Dave’s death his father asked ATOS why they had made a decision without accessing his son’s medical records. They admitted they had made a mistake and changed his record POST MORTEM to say he was not fit for work no apology was given to the family. Changing a record after a death why because they are aware they have blood on their hands. When people have to do horrible things to people they have to be dehumanized become a small cog in the apparatus and that is what we are seeing more increasingly in the way the DWP and ATOS operate.A bit like drone operators actually pressing buttons that might kill someone 1000s of miles away with as little effort of playing a video game. Cutting people’s benefit is seen as nothing more than a mundane task. Thinking of its impact is something that can be put aside. Very little is heard of people’s stories so I applaud Dave’s dad and the journalists that cover the stories.
Hearing these two stories I thought immediately of my own sons and their future. In a few years will I have to accompany them to such salt mines of despair? Adult services are dire. In the West Of Scotland where I live terrible things are being carried out in the name of Personalisation. It is a language and culture blogger Mark Neary calls “Carers Speak”. Councils can call day centres not fit for purpose and even “ghettos” and offer a tailor made service. In reality especially in Glasgow City Council this means people spending their days wandering shopping malls and respite and other essential services being slashed. What will happen to them in a few years are something I don’t like to think about. Some friends are going through this at the moment and I see the impact it is having on their own health and wellbeing. As carers we hope to choose our battles but often some are forced upon it and it is a dirty war where both sides have had to dig trenches. Unfortunately the other side has more resources and the experience of how to wear people down and they have no qualms about doing it. Today is a day where we remember those who died fighting for us and I remember all victims of war but my thoughts go to my friend’s children with a promise that if I can help I will. Let’s not let the powers that be quietly silence us but support each other. Let there not be other people’s battles but all our battles. One day the battlefield will come to YOUR door and you will need to know who is there for you. Writing this I have had to pretend I am a narrator because if I thought of it personally I would weep and despair. Feeling sad is a human behaviour and is what sets us aside from being a drone operator.
Please note before you read on that South Ayrshire Council have applied and say the person involved had applied for and been refused a discretionary housing payment However in my opinion the tone of the letter is not acceptable.A friend on Face posted posted this today.This is a letter being sent out to people in rent arrears due to the bedroom tax.
Please note before you read on that South Ayrshire Council have applied and say the person involved had applied for and been refused a discretionary housing payment However in my opinion the tone of the letter is not acceptable.A friend on Face posted posted this today.This is a letter being sent out to people in rent arrears due to the bedroom tax. South Ayrshire are a minority Tory lead authority in partnership with labour??
The letter threatens eviction a fine of £400 and a warning that social services might be contacted to take your children into care. Someone on twitter described this as the authority acting like an abusive partner making such threats. This is the reality of the bedroom tax for many. Although councils say no action will be taken if individuals “co-operate” what does this mean. Some people are just so depressed due to what is happening they simply don’t have the energy to deal with anything til a situation escalates to this. We can expect nothing less from Tories but labour. This has been carried out in allthese elected councillor names. I hope they take action. How can they sleep? Welcome to the everday reality of Breadline Britain where such evil actions are becoming more common place. What can the Scottish government do to prevent this?When it comes to the cuts women and children are first in the firing line
To those reading this who are affected and know someone who is. Please if you can get in touch with your housing provider. Many local authorities have pledged there will be no compulsory evictions due to bedroom tax arrears. I know myself how difficult it is to engage sometimes so if you can’t get in touch with an action group who can help you. Please leave a note in my comments and I can put you in touch with someone. I also know of people who have initially been refused Discretionary Housing Payment only to apply again and be granted one. So please don’t feel you are alone. The tories would rather we quietly sat at home being unable to eat or heat or homes. There are people who can help..
Some people are attracted to the light be it in the books they read and the movies they watch. Sometimes I envy those folk who can enjoy a rom com or chick flick. Since I’ve been young I have enjoyed dystopian sci -fi. I can remember watching at the age of 10 the village of the damned and invasion of the body snatchers. alien invasion stories which had an undercurrent of fear of the outsider and malevolent forces taking over our way of life. In my teens I moved onto some films from the 70s such as Soylent Green and Rollerball. Rollerball fascinated me. It is set in an alternative future where corporations control society there is no more loyalty to country but the corporation you are born into. This is quite a Platonic society with the Executives at the top of the pyramid and workers at the bottom. There are no more books everyone except the executives no longer know how to read they can visit picture libraries where a movie will tell them anything they want to know. In such a society there is a need for entertainment and Rollerball is the game followed by the masses and executives. James Kahn plays Jonathon E who wants to find out more and pays for it with his team’s life. Rollerball is a brutal game where anything goes. The film caused a storm when it came out due to its level of violence but I didn’t watch it for the rollerball games but the society you could catch glimpses of. William Harrison the writer of the original short story “Rollerball Murder” died on October 22cd just two days ago so here is a link to the short story which formed the basis of his screen play of the 197 movie “Rollerball” http://instruct.uwo.ca/kinesiology/378/files/essays/roller.pdf
I really recommend you read it. He was a very talented writer please check out his other works. I am enjoying his recent collections of short stories “The mutations of rollerball” which are wonderful. RIP to an often overlooked writer.
I didn’t know about his death. What brought “rollerball” and the power of its corporations back into my mind were a few other events and things I have been learning about which have made me think about the power structures in society. I saw Denise Mina last weekend and she spoke about predation and how it happens at all levels of society where it be the huge corporations who control markets to women who are treated as sexual commodities by sexual predators. In the world of “Rollerball” which is set after a Pan-Asian war, six corporations rule they no longer even have trade names they are known as ENERGY,TRANSPORT,FOOD,HOUSING,SERVICES and LUXURIES anyhow go read the short story. These seven corporations rule the world and the executives at the top control everyones lives. This couldn’t happen here could it? Then we look at the events unfolding in Grangemouth and the power of a corporation to hold sway over a country. It is times like these that we can see where the balance of power actually lies. There is a class of people who are truly international they hold little allegiance to nation states and most to those who they make a profit for. This is not a new situation. I’m learning about The Crusades at the moment wars that started in the 11th century. Reading “Crusading and the Crusader States” by Andrw Jotischy, he suggests that the aristocrats on both sided of the war had more in common with each other than the men in their own armies. They are a universal class beyond cultural, religious in fact all the ties that divide or bind ordinary folk. They are global capitalists.
The sell offs of assets owned by us in the eighties were accompanied by cute characterisation. “Tell Sid” and Maureen Beattie and BT spring to mind but they masked the truth that things owned by us were being placed in the hands of those who just wanted to make a quick buck. The Post Office has now gone the same way but the SNP have pledged to renationalise it if they were elected in an Independent Scotland. They have also taken Prestwick Airport out of private hands now they must take the initiative and privatise the Grangemouth refinery. It is an essential piece of the infrastructure that will flesh out the bones of an economic vision of an Independent Scotland. For me as a socialist that is the kind of Scotland I want where public ownership is supported and seen as a viable alternative vision not just the free market system which is failing the majority of people and profiting a handful. “Rollerball” may be set in a dystopian future but its warnings on the power of corporations holds true today and this a book written by a Texan Christian! Predation is wrong at all levels of society and it’s up to us to be more aware of what is going on around us and see what is really going on.
Wilki link to William Harrison http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Harrison_(author).
Down the road in Perth this weekend the SNP were gathering for their conference. Meanwhile in Glasgow the Mitchell Library was host to the much less assuming literature strand of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. Events are taking place all over Scotland now so go and have a look. This is the first year that Aye Write have been involved. They are hugely successful festival of writing in Glasgow which sells out almost immediately and it is good to see them being involved in the festival. The events in the Mitchell were much quieter. As the programmer of the events Stuart Kelly said in his introductions to Alisdair Gray, was this partly because of the subject matter and the stigma that surrounds it? My pal Jacqui and I would both admit we are drawn to the dark side a little and have no such reservations we did not feel “brave” as Stuart suggested but privileged to get the opportunity to hear some old and new writing talent.
And we did. Nathan Filer read an incredible first chapter from his debut novel “The Shock Of The Fall”. Nathan has worked as a psychiatric nurse and this novel is written from the first person perspective point of view of Mathew who has never fully recovered from the death of his brother. His website is www.nathanfiler.co.uk if you want to read more about him. He was sharing the platform with ex psychiatric orderly, poet, writer Dennis O’Donnell who read from his book “The Locked Ward” about his experiences of working in an acute setting. I found it interesting that Dennis’s agent told him to write the book after he didn’t get the deal for Susan O’Boyle’s biography despite knowing Susan and her family. I found it sad that the old Bedlam mentality where folk used to visit that institution for entertainment has never gone away but we are a nation of voyeurs, that’s why we read so much. However both authors attempted to portray that behind the label of mental illness there is a person sometimes struggling not to be hidden behind all the trails of glory that accompany it. Dennis has a blog dennis.odonnell.blogspot.com
Feeling like we had sneaked early out of school on a Friday afternoon we arrived for Santham Sangera visit his website for more information about his journalism and other books. www.santham.com. He read from his moving memoir “The Boy With The Top Knot” about his experiences of growing up in a Sikh family in the Midlands. Both his father and sister live with schizophrenia which he did not find out until he was twenty four. He talked about the negotiations he had with his family so he could tell their story. He movingly described the book as filled with love for his mother. Sangera has some controversial ideas about language. He described how he saw nothing wrong in the use of words such as “Mental” and “mad” to engage people and then challenge their perspectives. This was followed up by a conversation about how language can be a tool of oppression and do writers have a responsibility to challenge the narrative? The first day were chaired by Mark Buckland of Cargo Publishing. An amazing man who set up CARGO with no experience of publishing. He has struggled with mental ill health instead and is open about his recent diagnosis of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood and feared mental health conditions. Folk are frightened by stories in the media and the misrepresentation of living with psychosis. Prejudice exists at all levels. I remember a friend telling me not to mention she heard voices when applying to join the British Psychology Association or tell her university lecturers. People with schizophrenia are seen as dangerous and out of control, which is are from the reality that people recover and keep well live ordinary lives. In my humble opinion THESE are the brave people!
Saturday saw us seeing Jenni Fagan whose novel “The Pantoptican” has had critical acclaim. Jenni shared that no less than Ken Loach is making a film of the book. When asked who she would like to play Anais, the main character she replied a unknown. Jenni was brought up in the Care system and she mentioned how many young people she had known throughout her life had simply disappeared. This book was a love letter to them Jenni said. Read one of her few interviews here http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/books/jenni-fagan-on-life-in-care-and-her-new-novel-1-2896052 and buy or read this book. Denise Mina read from the “Red Road”. I was ashamed to say only very recently introduced to her books by Jacqui as they were crime books. Can’t recommend the Garnethill Books highly enough. Denise gave a great interview where she talked about predatory forces and imbalances of power. This goes on in the sex trade and in all areas of power. She described how seven global capitalist companies predate on us all bringing power, money and privilege. She talked about the lack of conversation about the YES and NO camps and how we will get along in a small nation. Will definitely try and convert Denise. Her website is www.denisemina.co.uk
I felt it very appropriate that Alisdair Gray should close the festival. This was the largest audience by far. The great man (because he is), was on good form talking about his bawdy interpretation of Dante’s Inferno and his other writing. He thinks 1982 Janine is his best book. Gray himself said that he only likes to talk about things that make him happy but he believed we should vote for Independence for a “new way”. He condemned the labour authority in Glasgow for closing the “health centres” in the East End for the Commonwealth Games. I think he meant the closing of the Accord. Gray told many amusing stories tinged with darkness. He even attempted to make light of his suicide attempts and his frequent brushes with alcoholism with the brightness of his personality must come darkness too. A great two days.
It was good to have the Festival in the Mitchell Library the events I attended were in the Jeffrey room. The Victorian patriarch looked down on us in this room filled with all his books he had bequeathed to the people of Glasgow. In the days before the Internet and access to superfast information people pondered over atlases and reference books now they just give an impression of grandeur. In Mr Jeffrey’s era the treatment of people with mental health was much different than today. Out of sight out of mind. Bad morality was seen as being infectious unwed mothers might find themselves incarcerated in an asylum. The remains of Glasgow asylums can still be identified on the skyline but as care in the community has become the norm the old buildings are now more likely to be luxury flats. People with mental ill health have to find asylum elsewhere. The stigma still remains though despite the efforts of various campaigns. As was highlighted at the festival, TESCO and ASDA employees did not think that “fun” Halloween costumes would upset anyone or were inappropriate. It was only when folk protested that they were removed. Discrimination against mental illness is still a permanent part of our culture. It is up to us all individually and collectively to try and put an end to it. I believe that language is oppression and that writers and those who contribute to the narrative of society have an obligation through their stories to tell the stories of those who Denise Mina suggested are marginalized and remember it is not them and us just simply us.
So a good weekend and a great start. However a few considerations the festival needs to be more accessible. Physical access was difficult for those of us with mobility problems that can be fixed but access is so much more than that! I know bigger audiences are necessary but how do we ensure that writers living with a mental health condition are more represented? that people living with mental ill health feel more able to contribute to the questions. It is a great opportunity for all of us to share what it is like to see the world through a different lens. It is great to see a literary thread weaved into the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. Those of us who came were lucky and privileged to hear so many different experiences of living with mental health and how it affects families and society. One of the themes of the weekend for me was that many of the stories were shared with love from the perspective of professional, family member or affected person. Another was the secret and lies in families and communities I hope we can move to a more open society where mental health is not something we don’t talk about. It seems to me that this is one of the biggest personality trait issues that we face collectively. Lets get more secrets into the sun where they can be dealt with not left to fester in wee dark corners.Thanks again to Mark Ryland and Stuart Kelly for wonderful interesting questions Again I have succeeded n getting through this without sharing too much of why this festival and it’s conversations meant so much to me. That’s a story or two for another day but I know the black dug well. Love and Peace to you all. Thanks Jacqui for a wonderful couple of days and to all my friends who sometimes dance in the dark thank you for being wonderful you, xxx