MY DATE WITH THE DOWNTRODDEN
By Dawn M. Sanders
A few weeks ago I had a notice drop into my in-box: Social care in Crisis in Sheffield, it read.
I thought, hmmm, so what’s bloody new?
Then I also thought, maybe I should just go along, with all the horrendous breakdowns, half-baked communication from the powers-that-be – coupled with all the harassment Sheffield has thrown at me.
Then again, it’s all too complex for me to even get my head around anymore, let alone a room full of people, banging on about they’re not getting this, they’re not getting that; in the same way the likes of ‘Dis-abled People Against the Cuts do, any time you see them out and about banging on about, they’re not getting their benefits or in danger of losing them.
But hey, I’ll give anything the benefit of the doubt within reason and, something told me – I just need to go, if anything to be clued up about what’s going on…
After leaving, I wasn’t gonna write anything, it was the most uninspiring thing anyone could write about, but as a writer/journalist – that’s just life, so thanks for sticking with it if you get to the finish.
It was all completely predictable – including the fact that I was twenty minutes late which, didn’t matter, cuz when I walked into the room it was chaos, with people getting into groups, pushing/pulling chairs around blab la.
So, got into this group at a table where, I couldn’t really get a word in. The idea was, to write down concerns then they would discuss them all at the end of the group session – bit like our seminar exercises at uni.
I had heard a lot of these stories before: the carers are this, have had six or seven in the last three months, zero-hours contracts mean, they’re not paid enough or reliable enough to “care”, but then it went further than that.
The chairwoman eventually read out someone’s story about her mother coming out of the hospital, having had a stroke and the home care would have probably been better in a third world country, where they didn’t have the choice to be driven by money or the lack of…
The woman next to me was on about: her dad’s carers coming in at all times apart from when they were scheduled and, she couldn’t take a holiday or time off, because they couldn’t even be relied upon for giving him his meds on time.
There were stories all over the room like this and I thought, ‘shit! If this is what we have to look forward to when we get older, totally dependent and ill?
Man, I’d rather just be shot or drugged as a safe escape from the inevitable descend into a forgotten scrap heap hurled into a ditch at the side of the super highway, dog-ee-dog trip of life!
People spoke of not having a human being at their disposal, but instead, a city-wide alarm system that, just didn’t always work – a girl gave the example of, if she has an epileptic fit at 3 in the morning, then what?
As ever, I piped up about my lad’s situation, again which was too complicated to put into words or try explaining in two mins to a room full of strangers, but I felt the overwhelming need to distinguish between ‘care’ which is too flippantly used, and support.
I as per usual, turned it on its head, because my issues aren’t about an elderly someone not getting the help with basics to continue living a dignified life, I had to stress, ‘it’s about my 18-year-old’ who has complex needs, not getting a coherent transition, not getting a support agency who is willing to make their staff learn the sign language he needs; which seem to baffle some people.
Then I had this 5 minute conversation during the tea break with some lass who works in sosh in the community and, she agreed with me that, if only more liberating language was used, what a difference it would make to the prevailing ‘dissing discourse of ‘dis-empowerment, ‘dis-crediting and subservience, which people keep allowing to define their entire existence; hence, milking that victim culture…
The meeting finished and people kept chiming in, determined to have their say and, rightfully so.
I guess I left with a better attitude than when I got their. At the very least, somewhere within the dysfunctional machine that is supposed to make sure an entire section of society gets help, there was a concerted effort to see what was going on or how people were suffering.
It was all the casualties you tend to hear on the news, gathered in some community forum room in the middle of Sheffield.
Upon leaving, I kept thinking, Man, other cultures really have it sussed; people look after their elderly within large extended families.
It was mentioned though, how, because these ethnically diverse families don’t bang on with social dis-services, in the way that most white people do, they still get no support/communication/recognition at all – all sometimes coupled with language barriers.
I distinctly remembered years ago, an ex-friend in Brighton commenting on having to look after her grandmother: “I don’t want to be burdened by her.” At the time I thought, whatta crap attitude to have to someone who probably contributed to your childhood…
The whole system is a mess and in disarray, because our culture can get away with not valuing the life of someone who is either elderly, long term ill or just bloody different – needing more help in life.
I just came away feeling, if people needing help with just the basics in life can’t get it and are subject to a parade of strangers coming through their home; not really caring as humans and even abusing, what the hell kind of chance does my son have?
He’s young, complicated, wilful and far too often misunderstood; so the world turns.