On Volunteering and Housing Day

Today is #HousingDay (hashtag housing day) a day designed to promote social housing and highlight all it does for people in the UK, how important it is and just what the need for social housing is.

I know from my own experiences just how much having access to a flat that is fully adapted to my needs, is safe and secure (in terms of both safety and tenancy) and affordable is.  It’s more than a roof over your head it’s the ability to make plans and do things and get on with your life that might otherwise be impossible.

And in both parts of my CAB  role (adviser/gateway assessor and social policy coordinator) over the last few years I’ve seen more and more people becoming homeless, struggling to find somewhere to live that meets their needs either due to availability, costs, access needs or landlords who won’t accept housing benefit.

I rent from a social landlord – Soha Housing – to be specific and a few weeks ago they made me aware of a call from TPAS for residents who were willing to share their own stories of being residents and volunteering to work with their housing provider. I’ve been involved since 2010 and we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. So knowing I like to write they asked if I’d be interested in sharing my story.

I wrote my story and it was pretty tricky. There’s no doubt that the volunteering I do – both for Soha but also for CAB – plays a huge role in my life and in many ways has changed my life.  Even taking the CAB aspects of my volunteering out of the equation there was still loads I could say about the matter and it was difficult to know what to include and what to leave out to make the point about why resident involvement is so important to me in just a couple of hundred words.  But I did my best and sent it off and Soha submitted it to TPAS.  And we didn’t hear anything about it.

Fast forward to this lunchtime and I went on twitter to discover that TPAS had chosen ten of the resident stories they had received to highlight and help promote Housing Day. Mine was one of the ten.  I’m really proud to have the opportunity and a bit surprised!  Two of my fellow Soha residents and friend Carole and Richard also had their stories chosen.  All ten of the stories are well worth a read – find them here.

Looking back at what I wrote today I think it’s also fair to say a lot of what I wrote about how being involved with Soha helps me – especially my last paragraph – can also be applied to my CAB work.  People have in the past said to me they don’t understand why I volunteer and how I could just sit at home and no one would blame me.  But I’d be a lot worse off – and possibly in need of greater medical and other support – if I did that.  Because that’s the difference volunteering makes.

 

Disability in the media

I’m paying a second visit over at Bea Magazine this month.  I wrote about the disability issues which were raised by the news that paralympian Oscar Pistorius has been arrested on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

You can read it here:

Disability and the Reeva Steenkamp Murder

The coverage of disability in the media has always been problematic but I’m really hoping this might be the beginning of it changing. I suspect that it’s more likely that it will change the way violence against women is covered by the media than disability.  Still I hope.

Last year I was asked to speak to the local paper about my sailing group having some new equipment after fundraising for over 6 years and raising half a million pounds for it.  It was on the phone and I did tell them I was a wheelchair user because it was relevant (the equipment will mostly help wheelchair users and means I can be more independent).  I didn’t tell them that I had CP.  But in the article it said “Ms Crees who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair said…”  Because that’s what defines me in their eyes.

That and another experience a few years ago where something I said was taken slightly out of context to make it appear like a terrible disability thing in a news clip mean I would be very wary talking to the press again. Basically they obviously really wanted to me to answer yes to a question and wouldn’t stop asking me varients of it.  In the end I said along the lines of  yes it seems like that to you but…”  The final news clip had me just saying “yes it seems like that.”

And I’m just me.  A regular crippled girl who writes and likes to sail.  I’m not high profile at all.  The fact that Oscar Pistorius is high profile is a big part of the reason why there are so many issues relating to disability in the coverage of Reeva Steenkamp’s death but it’s not the only reason. Crimes are committed by disabled people every day.  People are murdered everyday, sometimes by those disabled criminals or by others.  That doesn’t always hit the news. This did and brought with it issues about disability magnified to a whole new level.

I didn’t think of this until after I wrote the piece for Bea but I suspect disability is why it’s getting so much coverage.  If a regular Olympian, say, Greg Rutherford (being only he was the first to come to my mind) was accused of the same crime it would be a big deal.  But I’m not sure it would be quite as big a deal with so many people shocked and talking about it as when it’s the so called “Disabled hero”

I’m not the only blogger who has been tackling these issues.  William Peace has also written about the problem of disability role models (in which he also covers Helen Keller) over on his blog Bad Cripple.

>Dear Prime Minister

>I wrote a relatively long blog post on Tuesday and then my Internet went down and I lost it.  I do have quite a lot to blog about but not today…

The cuts which will be made as a part of the Comprehensive Spending Review were announced on Wednesday.  They will seriously affect disabled people and they haven’t been properly thought through.  The government admits that they haven’t looked fully into how they will affect disabled people.  I wrote a small post about this on Disability Voices.  It includes a link to a Scope campaign about it, asking people to e-mail their MP.

Fellow blogger and Disability Voices team member Bendy Girl, has posted several excellent responses to the cuts.  Dear Prime Minister has been reposted on the Guardian website.  It’s a very moving video response to the Prime Minister about what the proposed removal of Higher Rate Mobility (Part of DLA) from disabled people in care homes.

It’s hard hitting but well worth taking a few minutes to watch.  I’ll post more about my own reaction to the cuts soon but for now I wanted to share that video.

>More Nadine Dorries Twitter Fail

>Nadine Dorries made further ridiculous comments, this time suggesting that being disabled is the same as being retired and also that disabled people shouldn’t go down the pub.

I wrote another rebuttal over on Disability Voices. Twitter, Disabled People, Benefit Fraud… and Pubs

And DV team member, Sarah Ismail, has set up a facebook group calling for Nadine Dorries’ removal as an MP due to her disablist attitude.

Finally I must add that I personally am absolutely astounded and very touched to see the response my original piece on DV got, both on DV and also on Twitter.

>The Resistance Campagn

>If you’re in the UK, please take the time to sign this Not Dead Yet petition.  It’s asking MPs to take the time to sign up and say they support the Resistance Charter.  By signing the charter they will be declaring that they will support palliative care and independent living services and also that they will maintain legal protection for disabled and terminally ill people.

There is also the option on the website to e-mail your MP about the issue – which I’ve done

Basically a lot of people are concerned about what might happen to the rights of disabled and terminally ill people – and the services a lot of people rely on if euthanasia was legalised.  Personally I see it as potentially being a bit of a step backwards in terms of awareness, inclusion and disability rights.

Here is the link The Resistance Campaign