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24 Oct 2017
Dundee Stronger Together

IMAGINE you were born into a community where school attendance is low, unemployment is high and money is scarce. The majority of families complain about their ‘lot’ but feel they can do little to improve it. Your mother knows life doesn’t have to be like this and puts all her energy into helping and encouraging you from the moment you were born to strive for something better. Everywhere you go you are judged and you face discrimination because of where you live, what school you go to and how you speak i.e. Glesga slang. Despite all these barriers you never lose hope because you believe that hard work and determination will win in the end. Your aspirations are simple – you want a qualification, a job, friends and a social life, the occasional holiday but most of all you want/you NEED to feel that you are a worthwhile human being. Eventually your hard work pays off! You pass exams; you find the job and with it come the friends and the social life.  In fact you have worked so hard that you are earning enough to pay for that holiday once a year AND run a small car AND treat yourself to a nice meal out once in a while.  Your self esteem increases, at last you have earned the respect of your fellow citizens and your days of being treated as second class citizen are over. 


NOW IMAGINE ... the powers that be decide that you actually have TOO MUCH  ... the car; the holiday and nights out are all luxury items.  Okay, they acknowledge that you have worked hard for this and they are very sorry but you were born on the `wrong’ side of town, and it’s really not fair that you have all this when your peers don’t. And so, from now on you will only receive 55% of your salary.  The remaining 45% will be given to people not as fortunate as you. The salary you are left with barely covers the necessities of living.  You won’t starve but you’ll just go to work, come home, and eat super noodles or frozen pizza (you can no longer afford healthy home cooked meals and definitely no more eating out for you). You stay in on your own most of the time because you can no longer afford to socialise with your friends. You become isolated, depressed, and very angry.  Everything you’ve worked for has been taken away, solely due to the circumstances of your birth.  You try to challenge this decision but you are told this is “EQUALISATION” i.e. many of your peers are worse off than you so from now on you have to take responsibility for their welfare by sharing the fruits of your labour... IMAGINE this was you or someone close to you ... WHAT WOULD YOU BE PREPARED TO DO TO STOP THIS?  

You are probably thinking this could never happen in 2011 ... wrong! Welcome to Glasgow where a similar reality exists for many people who have a learning difficulty ...  here is one example ... Stuart is a 30 year old man who was born with Cerebral Palsy and learning difficulties. Despite the barriers, discrimination and disadvantages he faces every day of his life, he is determined that he will make the most of his life and not let the circumstances of his birth define who he is and what he can achieve. He focuses on what he CAN do rather than what he CAN’T.

Stuart’s disability means that he is unable to travel on his own or plan, prepare and cook meals, make telephone calls/organise his daily affairs without support.  Despite these challenges 3 years ago Stuart chose to leave home and move into his own tenancy. He was assessed by the social work department as needing 55 hours of support per week and for the last 3 years has managed on this. His life was by no means perfect and it continued to be a struggle, however he remained positive - his hard work and determination was paying off and his self esteem increasing. He used his 55 hours of support to live the `normal’ life that most of us take for granted but also to become an active and worthwhile member of society. He was unable to find paid employment but rather than sit at home feeling sorry for himself, he volunteered in an After School Care Club and Hospital Radio Station. His plans were to set up his own mobile children’s disco and offer his services free to the local community.  He was a keen sportsman and won medals for athletics and horse riding at the Special Olympics. He played football twice a week and even represented his country when he played for the CP Scotland Squad against Denmark. He spent a lot of time fundraising for Disability Organisations as he wanted to help others worse off than himself!

Under the guise of Personalisation, Glasgow City Council Social Work Department decided that Stuart had more than his “fair share” of support and cut his hours by 45% to just 30 hours per week. The rationale behind this was/is “EQUALISATION” i.e. Stuarts support has to be reduced as there isn’t enough money to go around: Stuart’s `cut’ will be shared out among his peers who previously didn’t receive any social work service. He is told there isn’t enough funding to support him with the “niceties” of life.  His mental health, self-esteem and sense of purpose in life are no longer important.  Since Stuart’s support has been cut, he spends a lot of time at home on his own. He mainly eats frozen pizza and super noodles. He has put on weight. Sometimes he just doesn’t want to eat at all. He isn’t sleeping well and feels isolated, angry and frustrated. He frequently cries tears of desperation. He has given up his football as he doesn’t have enough hours of support to travel there and back. His flat is grubby as he can’t manage to clean it himself. He finds the central heating control difficult to use: as there’s no support in the morning his flat ranges from very cold to a 40 degree heat. He pays for taxi’s a lot because support workers don’t have time to take him places. He has got into debt. He has his own motability car but it just sits outside his flat: there’s no-one to drive it. He has been told he would be better off giving it back.  Support workers try their best but there just isn’t enough time. His motivation is waning. Life is such a struggle. He is becoming depressed but no-one can help.

He has had to ask his Mum to look after his beloved dog as he no longer has enough support to be able to walk her each day. He has had to ask his Mum to come and make his lunch and take him shopping as support staff didn’t have enough time. There isn’t as much time to support him with budgeting so now his Mum has had to take control of all his finances as he can’t manage on his own. He feels a huge sense of guilt every time he asks his Mum for help. He blames himself for being born with a disability.

He is told that the cuts are to help his peers who previously had no support. Slowly his independence is eroding. Everything he dreamed of and worked towards is disappearing and there’s nothing he can do about it. He used to willingly volunteer his time to help his peers but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine he’d be forced to give up his life too... IMAGINE this was someone close to you!!!  Now here comes the hard bit ... WHAT ARE YOU PREPARED TO DO TO HELP STOP THIS?