The metric expansion of space dictates that two distant parts of the universe move away from each other. Out in the ether the universe has been growing since the big bang. I often think about this- how in this huge scale of things the entire scale of space is increasing, yet my mind often juxtaposes this with the contraction of my life so that I feel I’m moving in the opposite direction. At first my world shrank when friends stopped calling after I had to repeatedly cancel plans to go somewhere as I felt too unwell. Then came the next contraction when I found myself contained within my small home. Then another shift and my world became my 10’ by 12’ bedroom, and after that the bed. I still have the occasional good days when I can potter in the garden or spend half an hour in the kitchen, but for the most part my world is my bed- I even do light gardening: potting, seeding etc. from the confines of my mattress. I live vicariously through mind numbing TV show after mind numbing TV show and my brain, like my body, feels as if it’s slowing down, contracting.
But I’m lucky. I have a family. Every day I have someone to talk to. I even have a couple of good friends who still make the effort to see me and an online community to talk to whenever I have the energy. There are thousands of people with disabilities in this country who would do anything to have the little that I do. They are invisible. Society can’t see them so they are easy to ignore. Their days are spent in aching loneliness. When you are that alone life can feel like it is simply a long wait for death.
Austerity is another example of contraction within this expanding universe. Social services budgets are contracting, the parameters of those they can offer support to move inwards all of the time. Many third sector organisations and community outreach programmes are also feeling the strain so that many of them can no longer afford to even train volunteers. David Cameron’s big society is a failure. So what becomes of these forgotten people?
When the contraction of the welfare budget is also taken into consideration the picture becomes ever bleaker. With PIP (the replacement for Disability Living Allowance) comes a contraction in the number of people who will receive help with mobility- either in the form of cars or money to help with travel. Add in the number of people who are losing money for help with care, who will lose their one bit of interaction. If we then include the ESA debacle where people are having their personal budgets shrunk to £69 per week when they have wrongly been found fit to work, the potential for people with disabilities to reach into the world becomes scandalously small.
People with disabilities need more support with access to the community but they are receiving less support with every aspect of their lives. The way this government has aimed their sights at people with disabilities is a scandal. It wasn’t good enough before the coalition, now the situation is desperate.
I’d like to say I have solutions to this situation but I’m feeling rather hopeless. We need the government to reverse the changes which disproportionately hurt people with disabilities but even when the WOW petition received enough signatories to secure a debate in parliament very few MPs showed their faces.
We are bound to see more from the brilliant disability campaign groups out there who are desperately trying to highlight these issues but until this government is out of office I doubt we will reach a satisfactory position. If you are a non-disabled person and you have a friend who is struggling with their physical or mental health, persevere. Go out of your way to visit or talk to your friend; invite them to things even if you know they’re probably not well enough to go. When the invitations stop it is a stark moment in many people’s lives. If you can volunteer for community outreach projects I implore you to do so. If you can donate, then please do. Whatever you do, please, don’t forget us; we need an expansion in the people who care.