Photo: From the set of Graeae’s Threepenny Opera. A protest placard says “Save the ILF” with pound signs around it. It is leaning against a grey scaffolding tower that has a bright red noose hanging from the top of it.
This particular blog is a slight diversion from my normal academic blather. I just want to quickly call attention to a big issue that is effecting thousands of people in the UK, including some very good friends of mine.
I think everyone in the UK and the USA that I know is feeling the various financial crunching that both respective governments are implementing in a desperate attempt to save money. The problem with this, as often seems to be the case throughout history, is the ones who are getting most of the brunt of this are people who were not particularly well off to begin with. In the UK in particular, this government seems to have it out for the people that they would also label the “most vulnerable” in society.
The independent living fund is wonderful. It has allowed people with various disabilities who need various levels of support to get that support. These individuals are then able to control what support they get and how it is used in order to facilitate an independent life. (Hence the name, independent living fund) Often the people using the ILF are individuals who need 24 hour care. By having that option, it allows more disabled people to work and do what they want to in their lives, and also gives employment to multiple PA’s who may otherwise be out of a job. Needless to say, without ILF funding, the quality of life of these individuals would greatly lessen, or disappear all together.
Despite overwhelming proof of this and a long legal battle in which the courts actually ruled in favor of the ILF users, the government has decided to close ILF funding in 2015 without giving any real concrete description of what will happen to those who are dependent on ILF funding to live their lives. Alongside that, there are many skewed statistics about the numbers of people who need/use ILF funding. For example, they say closing the ILF has no effect on disabled children and young adults…. That is because the government closed the ILF to new applicants a few years ago thus meaning that many who need support have never received it. There is also overwhelming proof that the quality of life for these youngsters is not anything near what those with ILF support have.
I don’t use the ILF, but I have many friends who do, and I am terrified for them. Loosing this funding means anything from loosing quality of life, independence, the ability to work, to the care someone needs to stay comfortable, happy… alive? (Is that too far? Maybe… but when you tell someone who is quadriplegic that instead of having a care worker at night they can just wear “incontinence pads” if they need the loo… I mean come on. These are adults with dignity. Oh, and what if there’s a fire and there is no one to help them out of the house?)
I came to the UK almost 8 years ago as a bright eyed, optimistic young blind actor looking for a home that accepted me artistically and individually. Having come from a country that, to be frank, could do with learning a few lessons around what it actually means to create safety nets and support for its people, I was overjoyed by how much the UK took care of its own. I couldn’t believe that by walking onto English soil as a student, I immediately got free health care with no questions asked, or free travel on public transport as an acknowledgement that I don’t have any other choices for how I get around as a blind individual. I looked at the benefit system and thought, “well it’s not perfect, but it’s better than the states!” And most of all, I met a whole community of disabled artists and individuals, including my ILF using friends, saw how independent and strong they were, and strove to join them in that strength. I thought this was a government that “got it” more than most, and was most definitely ahead of the curve in disability awareness. With these cuts, the UK will be taking many steps backwards in the way it treats its own citizens.
My father visited me in London over the summer for the first time in a few years. This was the first time he had seen me comfortable in London as a city and able to navigate and move about without needing any help. One night in the pub he said over a drink I had bought him, “If you lived in America right now, you’d be on social security, stuck in a house without being able to work. Your quality of life is so much better here. I get why you want to stay in this city.”
I hate more than anything to think that quality of life, dignity and choice for anyone is being taken away. The ILF needs to be saved. Spread the word. Shout it loud, and don’t stop shouting until David Cameron and the other idiots currently pulling the strings get the message.
News on ILF closure:
Personal messages from ILF users:
Petition against closing the ILF. Please sign!