Thursday, 8 April 2021

Disability and Poverty

There was a discussion about UK poverty and class in the community of pioneers Facebook group.   I felt it was important to highlight the issues disabled people face in our society.  It's been really well received

I feel that raising these issues with church leaders is a key part of my ministry, speaking truth into situations.  

Here's what I wrote


I feel like people may be bored with my regular mention of the lack of inclusiveness of disabled people in church, but it's very much a part of the issue you raise.  Not only are disabled people absent from church because they are excluded or omitted; but they are absent from most of society - literally hidden away.  They are invisible and forgotten and living in often awful situations.

I don't know, and can't find, the actual number of disabled people who can't leave their homes, or even their bedrooms; but it's many thousands.  This includes people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities and mental health disabilities.

What I can tell you is that there are 14 million disabled people in the UK and less than half are in employment.  That means they're living on benefits but with the additional costs of being disabled - they are living in poverty!

That's not something I knew or would have believed until I became disabled and faced barriers myself and then got to know other disabled people and hear their stories.  It is shocking to hear these stories.

Let me give you some examples.

First my own story is a battle to get support.  I was told at the start by a social worker that I had to accept that I would no longer be able to be independent, that the social care system isn't required to ensure I can leave the house every day - once a week is considered acceptable.   I lost the ability to use stairs and assumed social care would help.  And they will, but this is the process:  Being assessed by social care takes 6 months, then another 6 months to identify what I need to be able to leave my bedroom, then a wait of another 6 months to get approval for budget and then a wait for the work - that would have been 2 years in my bedroom if I had to wait for council funding to leave my bedroom.  I was lucky, it only took us 3 months to remortgage our house to get the money to get a lift (£30k) so I could get around the house.  Then we had to find money to get a complicated ramp to the front door (£1000) and more money (£5000) for the deposit for a wheelchair accessible car.  We looked at moving to a bungalow but this would have cost even more.  And I'm lucky, we could find the funds to do this.  Most people when they face disability either have to face long waits or get charity support or literally beg people with crowd funding requests.

Other issues which mean disabled people are often invisible:

Did you know the NHS wheelchair service is a one year wait in most places? And they don't have funds for powerchair any more.  Mine cost me £12000.  

Oh and then social care keep telling my husband that he should give up work to meet my care needs - but if he does that we lose the house and it's remortgaged.  So then they say my 15 year old should step up more!  Young carers are an assumed resource in the UK!  Luckily we manage as a family, but you can see how many families just fall apart and end up in poverty, or the disabled people give up and just stay in bed all the time.  And if you become disabled, or have a disabled child whilst in poverty, there's no hope!  

I am sharing this to raise awareness but also to remind us all that even if we think we live in an area with no poverty (one person has said that in this thread) I guarantee you it's not true! Poverty exists everywhere but might well be very hidden.  

I will end this post with the most shocking thing I've heard from friends living with disabilities.

Social care budgets are so stretched now that disabled adults, who need help for every aspect of life, are only entitled to 2 care visits a day, of half an hour each.  That's 2 half hour visits a day to help people get up, cleaned and dressed, take medication, eat meals, change the bed, clean around a bit,  wash up from the meal, do the washing, get back into bed, possibly have a chat.  Try and imagine that.  What does this mean in reality? It means you are treated like an object, you are able to have a shower once a week if you prioritise that over cleaning the house.  It means you sit in your own mess for hours, and if that makes you feel uncomfortable to read then I'm sorry (not sorry).  The system relies on family and friends and charities to step in, but the lockdown has highlighted the horrific reality of how little support is actually provided statutorily.

I could go on with the trauma of applying for PIP, the lack of increase in payment of disability benefits, the lack of NHS funds for health care for disabled people but I think you get enough of a picture.

The church needs to step up and step into this situation.