Update 2014: Still deaf . . . . .

Back in 2011, when I first started my (thankfully?!) brief blogging venture, I mostly spoke about my experiences as someone with a hearing impairment. My belief then, further reinforced by events since, was that “society” has a relatively poor understanding of “disability”. Politicians, and the agencies of the government (DWP, etc.) have an even worse one!

Whenever Westminster wants a soft target to garner media attention, they usually focus on “benefits” in general, and – often – the sick &/or the disabled in particular. The national press, and not just the usual suspects of the Sun, the Mail and the Express, lap it up, and go mad trying to find someone who may be abusing the system. [DWP/ government statistics unfailingly show that the % of fraud is miniscule. If you want big numbers, look at tax avoidance …]

First up; ANY system – no matter how sophisticated – will always have a small number of people who find a way of cheating it. Just look at Parliament and MPs expenses ….
Concentrate of catching the cheats, not on a high profile campaigns to make the genuine feel ashamed of claiming. Usually these result in the elderly, or the mentally ill cutting themselves adrift and becoming isolated.

Secondly, can someone please explain to the policy makers that “disability” means many different things to many different people. The disabled are NOT a homogeneous group with identical, or even similar, needs and problems There are different levels of impairment, and different people – for reasons of confidence, for reasons of support (or lack of!) or simple attitude – cope in different ways.

Two people with very similar degrees of the same disability will, quite possibly, cope very differently. The individual needs assessing, NOT the disability.

Similarly, can someone please explain that not all disabilities are visually obvious. The sight impaired sometimes have a nice cuddly Labrador, and the mobility impaired sometimes have wheelchairs – both clear indications of a problem (and, sadly, often an invitation for some to patronise!); BUT, many disabilities are invisible.

You’d have to look hard to see my hearing aid, especially when I’m not wearing it :-). Then there are serious, life-changing conditions like Crohns Disease, heart disease, lung disorders, and a whole host of others. There is also the “Cinderella” of all disabilities – the issue of mental health, still stigmatised in the twenty first century.

I spent nearly 25 years in welfare rights – with the CABx, with the Probation Service and with a local authority. I know from personal experience of thousands of clients, that simply paying a weekly stipend to bugger off and stay at home is no solution; but neither is a unrealistic workfare programme with non-jobs and intimidating sanctions.

This is still one of the richest nations on the planet. We can – apparently – afford two aircraft carriers at countless billions, even though we don’t have any aircraft to fly from them. We can afford £224 million penalties on cancellation of a failed contract for the Borders Agency. We can even afford to consider replacing a nuclear weapons system in a world where the real threat is often in our own communities ….

Surely, we can afford to spend a bit of time on finding long term, realistic ways of supporting our own people? The quality of a society is measured on how it treats its most disadvantaged, not on how draconian it is to them.

P

NATO comes to town

I live in Cardiff, and – even though the summit is supposed to be in Newport, at the garish, Colditz-lookalike, Celtic Manor (a few miles up the road from here) – my home town is in virtual lock-down.

“Wait” I hear you cry, “isn’t the NATO summit not until early September?” Yep, but they are putting high steel fences around the Castle and the Welsh Collage of Music & Drama (both are hosting dinner/events, on September 3rd & 4th) now, and causing traffic mayhem in the process. Central Cardiff resembles pre-demolition of the wall Berlin at present ….

It’s going to be a month of delays, of diversions and of frustration. Where the “World leaders” go, so do an army of media types (thereby guaranteeing no one gets served in the pub), and – worse – 9,500 (many armed) Policemen. “Great for the tourist trade”, you say? Possibly, but I’m not a hotelier.

Why is there still a NATO? Hasn’t the cold war been won, and the Warsaw Pact dissolved? It’s the North ATLANTIC Treaty Organisation; how the hell does Eastern Europe or Turkey have an interest in that? I’m certainly no fan of Vlad (the Impaler, or – as my dyslexic friend calls him – Vlad the Impala) Putin (never trust any man who strips to the waist and poses as often as he does), but even I feel he has a point when he says he feels threatened by the constant growth of US-led NATO. It’s virtually on his doorstep if Ukraine or Georgia join too …

All this hyper-security though reminds me of why politics is now so unpopular. Politicians, across the party divide, are distant. They keep themselves isolated from us, and have little connection with reality. Most live gilded lives in comparative luxury, and rarely come into contact with ordinary working people (other than the butler). They simply don’t see what we see, or feel what we feel. How the hell can they then claim to speak for you & me then?

I am thinking of blogging again, after a “protracted” rest!!

Is anyone still interested in what I have to say, or should I just STFU? :-)

After some bereavement issues, and some health problems, I thought I might expose the world (Mr & Mrs Sid Scroggins of Splottonia Heights) to my wit and wisdom again; OK wit? No? – OK “opinions” ….

As a parent, I am used to no one listening to me, so I suppose an audience is absolutely necessary. Maybe it will be cathartic (is that the right word?) and I’ll feel better afterwards? Who knows.

Anyway, I await a response – any… ONE will do! :-)

TUC March for an alternative

I am looking forward to a pleasant day – with many old, and some new, friends tomorrow.

I intend to peacefully exercise MY democratic right, to participate with (hopefully) several hundred thousand like-minded people, and to show this misguided, deeply dishonest, government that they are not speaking for me. I have no desire to be aggressive, to be violent nor do I wish to do damage to anything other than – possibly – the soles of my shoes and a pint of Fullers London Pride (or two) :-)

I am coming on a coach from Cardiff. I want to return – the same day – on the same coach, back to Cardiff. I want to do so with many photographs of happy people, beautiful Trade Union banners and of inspiring speakers at the Hyde Park event. I can’t promise I won’t try to heckle one or two though. Ed Milliboy sounded so uninspiring on the news.

If there is any trouble, I will do my utmost to get as far as possible away from it. I believe this reflects the opinion of the vast majority of those attending tomorrow – so it ill-beholds some irresponsible journalists, like Toby Young in the Telegraph – to seek to incite trouble on the basis that some individual did something silly with a statue in Nottingham. On this basis, the idiot Young predicts carnage and mayhem on the streets of London.

The media are getting themselves into a pseudo-sexual frenzy over the possibility. They want to justify their servile support for this government by painting all opposition as violent or destructive. It simply isn’t true.

Tomorrow, 21 colleagues from my work place are coming to London – most of us are 50+; we are Grandfathers and Grandmothers; we are mothers and fathers; we are social workers and street cleaners; we are concerned about our future and the future of our dependents. Most of all, we are concerned about the future of the service we provide to vulnerable people, and about the fate of disabled and elderly clients. It is that simple.

We could all stay at home, cut the grass – do the shopping – watch Wales v England at the Millennium Stadium even; but we are not.

We are coming to peacefully protest our concern and our opposition. We won’t be buying the Telegraph though !

Thank you for listening, and – as ever – be grateful that you can :-) x

Why I am marching next Saturday . . .

Source: “New Statesman” magazine, 21.03.2011: David Shrigley’s View -pg. 17. Says it all for me ;-)

Five words that may haunt this Government?

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER” . . . . .

Not a long sentence, but it just could be a death sentence ?  Allow me to explain :-)

I am a Local Government worker, and – therefore – one of the group currently being blamed for all of societies ills at present. Like most of my colleagues, I haven’t had a pay rise in over two years, and for a few years before that, the hike was less than inflation. When checking my bank statement and destroying items older than twelve months recently, I noticed that my take-home pay is actually less now than it was then. Not a huge difference, a mere few pounds per month, but LESS.

I have a mortgage, I have dependents. I also have soaring fuel bills, increased Council Tax, 20% VAT, higher food costs, etc., etc., – but you all know that, you have too. Thankfully, I don’t run a car – and I don’t smoke, nor drink a lot. My biggest “vice” is coffee, and that has shot up too!

This whole concept of a “Big Society” and of all mucking in together doesn’t sound too terrible at times. It was what got this nation through World War Two. A sense of fair play, rationing so we all got an equal share – dammit! It was almost Socialism!!

Despite the media obsession that the last government was solely responsible for the deficit, and as a non-Labour party member, even I don’t blame Gordon “if i smile you’ll be scared” Brown for a global collapse that started in the USA. New labour were blind to the failings of an economy built on speculation, but so were Major, Thatcher, Cameron and Clegg – or have we all forgotten that?

The newspapers are hardly unbiased or without their own agenda. Mr Murdoch probably pays less tax on his vast earnings than most of you, and still has the cheek to lecture us about benefit cheats and the like. Tax avoidance is legal, sadly – not for us poor sods on PAYE, but for those who have the resources to act in such a morally corrupt manner. Hell, they even change their nationality often, so how can we take lessons in the “national interest” from a man who has moved from Australian, to British, to American. Next stop, Chinese, Rupert?

No, even though it is painful and difficult; and even though I am an active Trade Unionist, I would happily submit to a pay freeze IF we were all in it together” – but we are not, are we! The bankers, many of whom carry a large responsibility for the crisis, are already paying themselves huge, eye-watering bonuses.

Northern Rock (a wholly state-owned bank) and RBS (I think we own about 80+% of that one?), both of whom made staggering loses again, paid a select few enormous bonuses. Why? To stop them leaving, we are told. Well, if their talent is for making loses and causing chaos, the sooner they bugger off the better, no?

Barclays, who weren’t bailed out directly, but who did draw considerable advantage from fiscal measures and protection afforded to their trading, have a CEO with the gall to tell a Select Committee that the time for blame is over! No it bloody well isn’t pal!

MP’s are complaining about their new expense system, barely a year after many of them were exposed as cheats, fraudsters and spivs. A few have already been convicted and sentenced to jail; a fair few others should have been, but stood down, paid back vast sums claimed for moat cleaning or duck houses, or just plain old greed. No doubt, many of them have traded on their past-lives and now have comfortable jobs and even more comfortable salaries!

We have a Cabinet, I am told, with 22 millionaires in it. How can they understand the effect of their policies upon the mass who see £30,000 as a good annual salary? It is laughable.

If we are all in this together, why aren’t we all hurting to the same degree?

Thanks for listening, and – as ever – be grateful that you can. :-) PK

Am I TOO sensitive? Am I f. . . !

Recent events have made me realise, even more, how intolerant a society we are at times.

It has also raised my personal estimation of the long-term disabled to a stratospheric level.

Allow me to elaborate.

Regular readers (both of you!) will – by now – know that I am severely hearing impaired. Whilst having no hearing in my left ear since birth (mine was always a Mono world), I managed to reach the Grand Old Age of 52 before a virus caused the right one to fail. I use a hearing aid, to amplify sound to a level where I can make some sense of it, but – in truth – it isn’t volume alone that is the problem, it is clarity too. No hearing aid can improve that, sadly.

The hearing aid can help, but it also has a negative side. First, it causes “sweatiness” and an increased risk of additional infections. Imagine walking around all day, every day, with your finger in your ear. Not comfortable, is it. Then there is the problem of traffic. I live and work in a large, bustling City – Cardiff. Love it. Wouldn’t want to live anywhere else now. Almost a “local” – after 26 years.

The difficulty is that traffic makes a lot of unpleasant noise; engines revving, squealing brakes, horns and hooters, irate motorists, etc. – anyway, it is not what I want to hear, so I frequently remove my hearing aid when in town. Popping it in to talk in shops or in cafes takes seconds, and I keep it in its neat little case in my top pocket. I have to use my eyes more, because the same traffic I don’t want to hear can also run me over!, but – to date – I have coped.

Yesterday, whilst awaiting a bus to County Hall in Cardiff, I was verbally abused – by a tourist, I think (he had a Tourist map of Cardiff in his hands) – and this reminded me of the other, too many sadly, occasions that I have suffered similar. The incident, in itself was not major; but it is part of a culmination of a society that is increasingly intolerant and aggressive to the disabled.

As I said, I was awaiting a bus; sitting in a bus stop outside the Hilton Hotel, watching the Irish Rugby Squad board their coach. Said “Tourist” (no idea if he was Irish!) approached, and – I presume – asked directions (he had that look and was pointing at his map).

I responded thus (as I had removed my hearing aid, as mentioned earlier); “Sorry, I can’t hear you but . . ” – I didn’t get any further than that, because he – literally – went ape-shit on me. He started ranting, no idea about what because I was still fumbling for my hearing aid, and then he stormed off. From his body language, his facial expressions and from his colouration (going puce), he clearly thought I was being unhelpful. If he had waited a second longer, my sentence was going to end, “. . .  if you hang on a second, I’ll put my hearing aid in and will be glad to help you bwtti“.

OK. No one was physically hurt. No blood was spilled. The little old lady next to me was a tad upset at it, but she was ok. If I wasn’t getting on and not as quick as I used to be, I should have decked him one, but that would definitely terrified the old dear, so probably best I didn’t.

I should also add a few personal points. I am a smidgen under 6 foot tall; about 17+ stone, and after 40+ years in the world of work, including spells working with both sex and violent offenders, with people with addictions and with sufferers of Mental Health problems, not easily upset. I am also a very active Trade Unionist, so I am well used to abuse!

I don’t cry easily. With the exception of tears of joy when my beautiful, much-loved daughters were born, the last time I can remember really crying was 18th September, 1970 – when I read the front page of the London Evening News that Jimi Hendrix had died (OK, I was 16 at the time!!). I didn’t cry yesterday either . . .  but i felt like it nearly.

Daily, I see the expression on some people’s faces when I ask (tiresome, I know) to repeat something – sometimes even twice.

All to often, I am expected to be amused as some idiot, on being told that I am deaf, makes some tasteless joke about it.

Frequently, I am confronted with meetings (even after being told of my condition) that don’t have an induction loop, or don’t know how to operate it, or find that it hasn’t been serviced in years and that it doesn’t work. “Oh, do you mind?”, they say.  What? Do I mind that I’ll not now hear sod all, and that you probably don’t give a toss? Have a wild guess!

A couple of years ago I attended a meeting in City Hall, along with many others, when Sir Richard Tilt was addressing an audience of CAB workers, Advice agencies, Local Authority staff and specialists who worked with Social Fund appeals. Tilt was the Commissioner of the Independent Social Fund Review at the time.

His staff had gone to some lengths to ensure that the meeting location was equipped with the correct loop and that it worked. The “top table” all had microphones and their was a roving mic’ for speakers from the floor. Brilliant. Only Sir Richard decided to become a “man of the people”, rose from his seat and stood in front of the table to address us. Couldn’t hear a bloody thing.

Not being the shy, retiring type, I interjected that those of us with a hearing impairment required him to use the microphone. He waved me aside and said, I’ll come to that later !! Sir Richard? or just plain “dick” ?

On other occasions, I have met with unfriendly technology or uncaring staff. I have previously blogged about the lack of working loops in cinemas, in theatres or, if they do work, the fact that a deposit is required for use. These are all relatively minor when compared with what some disabled people face each day, but if these are wearing me down, think what it is doing to them.

I have huge respect now, for those born or disabled young; for those with much more severe conditions than mine. I would like to hope that readers of this might just take a bit of that respect away with them and use it next time you meet someone who needs a bit of patience and understanding. Please.

As ever, thank you for listening and be grateful that you can :-)

This “Rant” is dedicated to the wonderful Kaliya Franklin (@BendyGirl on twitter) who continues to inspire me daily with her tweets, and to Natasha Hirst (@TashHirst) who inspired me to blog this contribution. She is a hugely talented photographer, political activist and all round good egg, who just happens to be deaf too. xx – to both of you – xx

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