Home is where the heart is

You know they say home is where the heart is.

It’s where your family is. It’s also where you feel safe. But imagine not being able to see your family and your friends, or anyone you knew because you have been placed outside your NHS board area, outside your council’s local authority area. Basically you have been placed away from home. That’s what this post is all about.

In my last post I mentioned about my experience at Partners in Policymaking. On the last weekend, which happened to be our graduation weekend, I heard about a report which I had already been reading and looking at. This report is called Coming Home.

It was written by Scottish government and it talks about people that are placed outside of their communities. You know, being placed outside your community must be quite frightening. Imagine not being able to have your mum and dad visit you every day if you are in hospital. Imagine not seeing those people you grew up with. Imagine also not knowing anything or anyone, just feeling lost and being outside of the area and place you grew up.

In the Coming Home report it also talks about long-stay hospitals and people that are placed outside their local authority.

A group of us at In Control Scotland have talked about this report to see what we can do to highlight the things it discusses. We had our first meeting on 20 June, to discuss the report, to discuss an action plan, and to look at ways forward and how we can make sure that the recommendations in this report are actually implemented.

You know it is time now that people are not being placed outside their local authority.

This could be a real big reality for me, and it scares me to think that, without the right support, I may end up somewhere that I don’t want to be. Where I don’t know anyone. I could be placed thousands of miles away, even in Glasgow, all because there is no bed my local area.

We don’t need long-stay mental health hospitals in this day and age for people with disabilities, but what we need is the right support for them to live their life how they want. We don’t need people placed outside their authorities and them being placed thousands of miles away all because “that’s best for them.” If you place someone away from everything they know, away from everyone they love, then that will be detrimental.

It is about time that we shut the group homes, community living places, hospital units that are for people with disabilities. You know it simply is not fair to place someone outside of their authority.

It is time to bring people home where they belong, because getting them closer to home will improve their health big time.

You know, we wouldn’t have known about any of this if it had not been for the BBC Panorama programs. I reckon the reporter who did all the investigations into Winterbourne View and other places like Winterbourne is one brave person: to go undercover to spot all the failings and come out and make a program out of it is quite amazing. I watched the recent BBC programme Undercover Hospital Abuse Scandal about a place like Winterbourne. I am glad I had no heavy objects and that I was miles away from my TV or else I may have needed a new TV!

In closing, I think it’s time to lobby the government both at Scottish and national level and even councils, to make sure that no one, absolutely no one, whatever their background, ends up being placed thousands of miles away from everything they know and love.

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With a little help from my friends

This post starts off in 1987, when the world was a different place to what it is today. This is when I was born into it. My family were pretty normal but I was born slightly different in the way I think and see the world: I was born with autism. So let me take you on a journey and, if you remember a little bit of history, you may want to sit comfortably!

So, as I said, I was born in 1987 in the June just before Michael Fish the BBC weather presenter got the great storm all wrong. My mum and dad had only been two years married and I was their first child. Everything seemed normal, my sister came along, and in 1989 I went to the local nursery. I didn’t see anything wrong there, and as far as I could see I transitioned perfectly well to the local primary school – but you don’t look at transition status when you’re that young!

It must have been about Primary Three when I noticed things were different, as I started getting pupil support. I went into Primary Four not noticing anything, but Primary Five was when it all totally fell apart! I started getting bullied because people noticed I was different. People noticed they push my buttons and I would react. They also noticed the fact that I was sitting at the back of the room and not doing the same work as them. Although it didn’t bother me then, the bullying continued throughout primary school.

I then transitioned to secondary school and then it got worse – a lot worse. So how did it get worse? Well, I was in pupil support base doing basic work but attending some of my normal classes. They would pick on me because I wasn’t doing football or any sport. They use to bully me because I was not like any of them. Then, when I was 14 I was then formally diagnosed with autism, dyslexia, and other health conditions.

Not long after I was diagnosed, the bullies found out and then the bullying got a lot, lot worse: they used to call me names like “freak.” They would also call me “Rain Man,” “Forest Gump,” “thick,” or worst of all, “spastic.” It happened outside school as well: when I got off the bus they would spit on me; they would make me eat things off the floor like dog shit; hold me down and make me eat mud and drink anything they could get in cup. I even remember one of them saying that I could be fixed with bleach, as that’s what they had been told by their parents. They kicked me, punched me, really hurt me.

I was happy the day I left school. I went on to do some college courses but again I was bullied: some of the other people in the class would make me angry to the point that I kicked off. They would hit me with bottles, and all of them enjoyed winding me up. I thought this was how life was.

I also have been through quite a number of losses over the last few years: the loss of my mum, my dad, pretty much all of my family. I even thought about ending my own life. But recently I have found people who accept me for me! The first group of people are “Celebrate Aberdeen.” Celebrate Aberdeen is a group of people who come together on a voluntary basis to help organise a weekend to celebrate the third sector and charities in and around Aberdeen City. As well as coming together we also are about to celebrate our second “Celebrate Aberdeen Awards.” Here is a photo of some of us at my birthday recently.

I’ve also found someone else and that is one of my good friends Karen Finch. She also just accepts me for me, helps me build all my furniture, looks after my cat when I’m not here. She generally kicks me up the arse and literally pulls me back on my feet when I need it. Shhhh! Don’t tell her I said this, but I think she’s a crazy cat lady!

Then, in November 2018 I started a course called Partners in Policy-Making, from which I graduated in June of this year. It’s a course that empowers individuals with a disability and also families of children with a disability. Partners in Policy-Making is run by In Control Scotland and delivered by Jaynie Mitchell and Karen McIntyre. The two of them are absolutely amazing and I would like to say to them, thank you for everything you taught me. But it’s also the people on the course that are amazing people who accept me for me and don’t see any of my labels. Let me tell you about them…

Elaine MacTaggart (don’t get her mixed up with Taggart from the telly, I don’t think there’s any relation there; anyway I don’t think she could say “It’s been a murder,” with a straight face!). She taught me and everyone on the course that all the labels about me, apart from my name, belong only in the DWP. She was one of the speakers I liked most – although I liked everyone! Everyone else participating on the course were people with a disability – known as “self-advocates” – as well as some parents. Most if not all of them were pretty cool. I loved hearing their stories and learning from them, and it taught me that it’s okay to be me; that the bullies were wrong, and in fact they accept me for me. Let me tell you about some of them.

The first person I’m going to tell you about is Fiona: she only was just down the road in Montrose so I would hop on the train on each Friday of partners and get off at Montrose where she would stop off and pick up me, and someone else I’m going to tell you about, called Ruth, who is mum to three amazing children. The next person we would pick up in Fiona’s red car would be Heather. Heather is absolutely amazing! Then we would head to The Horn for bacon rolls. Talk about bacon rolls, there was more bacon than roll!

Then we would head to Stirling where we would meet up with everyone else including my little brother Jordan (I don’t mean age wise I mean height wise! I suppose all good things come in small packages – including arsenic! Sorry Jordan hope you can forgive me… In fact I hope that makes you laugh). There was Patricia: she is an amazing little baker, I will miss her baking. There was Natalie who had come from my home town but moved to Glasgow. There was my incredible Auntie Bee (even though her real name is Brenda and, in her words, “Who calls their child Brenda?!”). There were so many Fionas! I think one plays the piano and is a doctor but not in the medical sense. There were a number of Karens who all had some interesting things to say, to say the least! There was also Lizanne, Julie and Logan from Shetland, Eileen from the Borders, Joanne from East Lothian, also Jennifer from Bridge of Allan, close to Stirling, who is hoping to get an accessible roundabout in the new playpark – it will be better than the Magic Roundabout!

There was a Wendy who happened to be from Unite union but was there in her own right – but both of us could bang the union’s heads together! There was Lisa from Glasgow, and many more people. There was also someone who became my gin buddy, who wrapped me up in the education weekend like a precious gift, who jokes about the fact that I followed her everywhere like a shadow but she became like a sister. After losing all my family I never thought I would find a sister again! Thank you Alex. She really restored my faith in people.

Everyone at Partners the even made an address book for my birthday so that I would never lose touch with them again! You know I’ve made 35+ new friends that don’t feel sorry for me because of my labels, that won’t be nice just because we were on a course together, but genuinely want to be my friends. I know for some of them I give them hope for the future too. I’m so glad I’ve done that. At the end of this post I have added some photos from the weekend. I know they are going to kill me for some of the photos I’ve used! Thank you everyone at Partners for teaching me that not everyone fights like the people who bullied me at school, and that there are genuinely nice people out there who care; who love me just simply for being me. Here are photos of them all.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and look at the photos. I would just like to say that if you are one of the people who bullied me: who is laughing now? I think it could be me. I don’t give you a second thought any more.

What are the BBC thinking?

So I’m back to ranting!

This week the BBC board (basically, the governors of the BBC) decided to remove the free TV licence for the over 75s. Okay, this won’t be until 2020 but still it is ridiculous. Seriously, what are the BBC thinking? Well of course I can at least take a guess! The BBC are after more money for their programmes. We all know that people would kick up a stink if their TV licence were to cost any more, so instead they’re going after the pensioners: the people who in the winter have to decide between heating or feeding themselves. So are we now going to have pensioners having to budget very tightly all year round? Some don’t have anything left after their pension so will have to decide whether to heat their home, have some food, or whether to pay the TV licence. This is ridiculous.

Here is what the BBC Chairman and Director General say about it:

The future of television licences for over 75s
ABOUT THE BBC
A message from the BBC Chairman and Director General

We are writing to you today to let you know about some important changes to TV licences for older people. First, we want to explain why these changes need to be made. Since 2000, all households with people over 75 have been entitled to a free TV licence. This has been paid for by the Government, but in 2015 they announced that they would stop paying for it. 

As a result, the current government scheme offering free TV licences for over 75s will come to an end next year. Instead, through an Act of Parliament, the Government gave the BBC the power to decide what happens next. Any new scheme would be decided on and funded, not by the Government, but by the BBC. 

This means we have had to make a really important and difficult decision. 

After June 2020, the cost of continuing with free licences for all over 75s would be £745 million a year and rising – which is around 20% of the BBC’s budget. That is a huge amount of money. Were we to meet these costs, it would in practice mean the closures of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel, the BBC Scotland Channel and Radio 5live – in addition to a number of local radio stations and other cuts and reductions. We know that audiences really value what we provide on TV, Radio and online – all of which are paid for by the licence fee. And these changes would profoundly damage the BBC’s ability to serve our audiences of all ages. On the other hand, we are fully aware that some older pensioners are in poverty and rely on their TV and the BBC for companionship. 

We didn’t want simply to abolish free licences for all older pensioners. We didn’t think that would be fair on those who would find it hardest to pay. Nor did we think it right to continue with a scheme that mirrored the Government’s, given the severe impact that would have on BBC services that are valued by everyone – old and young. We have therefore decided to introduce a new scheme. It is one that we believe represents the fairest possible outcome. 

From June 2020, anyone aged 75 or over who receives Pension Credit will also be entitled to a free TV licence funded by the BBC. This will help the poorest pensioners who will continue to enjoy a free TV licence. It’s important to stress that it is not the BBC who will make any judgements about poverty – that measure is set and controlled by Government. As well as being fairest for the poorest pensioners, this scheme is also the fairest for all licence fee payers as it means everyone will continue to receive the best programmes and services that the BBC can provide. 

This new scheme will cost the BBC around £250 million a year. This will mean we have to continue to find significant savings, but we are confident that we will be able to protect the funding for services the public tell us that they enjoy. 

We want to make claiming the free licence simple and straightforward. Individuals will simply need to demonstrate their receipt of Pension Credit in order to qualify. If you’re over 75 and currently get a free licence, you don’t need to do anything yet. You will carry on being able to get a free licence until June 2020. TV Licensing will be in touch before then to tell you what you need to do. If you want to find out about our decision in more detail you can read all our documents here. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. We have thought long and hard to arrive at the fairest possible decision for everyone. We are committed to ensuring we continue to give you a world-class BBC, not just today, but for tomorrow. 

Yours

Sir David Clementi, BBC Chairman
Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC

And of course there was then this thought-provoking image online. I’ll leave it with you to see what you guys think:

update

Well, I haven’t blogged in a while. So what have I been up to? I’ve been campaigning and sorting things out. I’ve heard back from the DWP, with no change to my ESA; but let’s move on from all of that and to the next blog.

Well, this week we finally know we’re going to see the end of May! Okay, yes, I’m talking about the Prime Minister’s statement on Friday. She came out and she said “Well, I’ve tried to lead. I’ve kept the United Kingdom together. I’ve done a job for my country. The country I love leading so much.” Well we all know what happens when you cry: we ask are those real tears? They were crocodile tears because she knew she was finished. But after all let’s go back in history for a wee bit there. She inherited the job in 2016, from David Cameron, who kicked all this EU referendum cr*p off at the last general election when he was Prime Minister: he promised us an in-out referendum on Europe and, of course, Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain. I’ve got to say I am an “in” voter and sadly England (some parts of it) voted to leave so we are leaving Europe. It looks like we’re leaving Europe on Halloween – I’ll start carving my European pumpkin now, just in time! Hopefully it will be the light at the end of the Brexit tunnel.

But getting back to the news this week from Teresa, with her giving up. Who are we going to get next? We know that Andrea Leadsom, Boris Johnson (as I call him, mop-head Johnston) have put their names into the hat. Philip Hammond, even worse, Jacob Rees Mogg and, of course, a boy who is local to the north-east, you’ll never believe it, Michael Gove! A few stories I could tell you, Michael Gove, but I won’t go into that. But we all know what’s going to happen with this new Prime Minister. We are going to leave Europe with no deal. I certainly didn’t think we would leave this way; in a way, I feel sorry for Teresa. She tried once, not just once, not just twice, but three times to get her deal through and she kept failing and kept failing. Kept failing because she couldn’t get the proper number of MPs to vote for her deal. But we will just need to wait and see what happens.

What else can I add to this blog post? Oh yes, I’m heading back to college in September. But don’t worry folks, of course, I will keep blogging. I’m sure there will be things there that I can blog about big time. Also, in the summer, I am back involved with “Celebrate Aberdeen,” which celebrates the third sector parades up and down across the north-east of Scotland and especially in Aberdeen in the last weekend in August. So if anyone is around then please feel free to come down and see it! I’ve started recently following a new podcast from McHugh Corner. It’s all about grief, and done by the travel presenter of NorthSound Radio. Sadly, as many of you know, a lot of people are mourning. Aberdeen lost in the Scottish Cup semi-final to Hearts. Derek McInnes wasn’t going to take the Scotland job and, of course, Celtic did Aberdeen a favour by winning on Sunday, so Aberdeen now qualify for Europe.

This blog post has mainly been a random write-up of everything that’s been going on since the last one! Obviously, coming to the end of my Partners in Policymaking course, I’m glad that I’ve done it because I found my blogging friend Alex, who I always follow and who always reads my blogs. I don’t think there’s very much else to say really – apart from I hope you enjoy reading this blog.

Someone who inspires me

This blog is not a rant – but not all of my blogs will be! This blog is about someone who is very very important to me.

In this day and age, being a member of a church and being religious is not all that cool, but I think it is – and you know something, there is someone out there who makes it cool! This person is such an inspiration. She doesn’t see me like anybody else, nor did she see any labels; you know this person is really cool. Week in week out she doesn’t stand in the pulpit you know – she stands right at the front of the church. She doesn’t lecture like some ministers do, she talks, and she talks right into your heart. She makes the Bible totally come alive and after all, when she gave me my cross reference Bible she told me one thing: most of the verses in the Bible have been taken from each other you know! What an inspirational person.

She doesn’t throw it down your throat, she helps you understand it. Even in times of trouble she’s there. You know she’s not scared to get her hands dirty – she helps the other ladies in the church clean the toilet! I don’t think you would find anyone else doing that, especially a minister.

she’s not her full-time minister she’s our “local.” In fact she’d probably say to me, “I’m just a member of the congregation who’s able to do the Word and Sacrament.” But you know something, this woman means a lot to me. I’m going to tell you her name. Her name is the Reverend Dr Flora Munro. Even when she’s struggling with personal issues and tragedies Flora is there. I sadly lost my own mother 8 years ago this July, and I only met Flora a few years ago, but I look on her as a mum. Recently I passed my college course: she was extremely proud. Thank you for believing in me. I don’t know what more I can say about her, but as you will see from the photos she is so cool!

In this photos is the Rev Dr Flora Munro and sum V.IP this was day that i was made elder of the church. A long with Mrs M copper what was one of MY Pupil support assistant at school

DWP assessment

So for my second blog post, I’m going to pick something very personal.

On the 1st of April I attended a DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) assessment for ESA (Employment Support Allowance). No it’s not an April Fools! They called in the morning to check I was going to attend. When I arrived at the appointment I had to buzz the door very firmly (if anyone had been in a wheelchair there is no way he would have reached the buzzer). The receptionist asked my name which I gave, and asked if I had any ID. They didn’t say in the morning when they called that I would need ID so I didn’t take any! (And I couldn’t read the letter they had sent because it was printed on white paper, despite it being stated clearly on my file that I am dyslexic and can only read printing on coloured paper). Luckily I had my bus pass and my bank card with me!

They had made a mistake on the letter with the name of my appointee, so there was a bit of carry on there for a good 15 minutes. When I said to the receptionist that I was getting anxious and upset because of my autism – at this point my foot was tapping like nobody’s business on the floor – all she said was “We’re not late.” In fact it was now 2.00 and my appointment was 1.45 so I think yes they were late. By the time I got through to the room it was 2.05 and my autism was through the roof, my anxiety was over the hill; it felt like I was going to have a heart attack! Unfortunately at this point I completely had a meltdown, quite an angry one: I shouted that they were late, that the form had been filled out incorrectly, and that I was really anxious. My appointee, who was from my support company, said to me (unhelpfully), “If you don’t calm down they’re going to get the police!” I turned round and said, “Fine, get the police.”

Well, they didn’t. They moved on with the interview, asking silly questions like, “Have you seen your family?” Well my mum died on July 28th 2011 of cancer and my dad committed suicide five years ago this very year on the 18th of April! They then asked “Do you have a daily routine and follow a daily structure?” I said, “Yes, I follow it vigorously.” They asked if I could make a meal, and I said, “Well, does taking something out of the freezer and sticking it in the micro for five minutes count as making a meal? It’s a ready meal after all!” They just asked another question: “Do you get support?” My appointee piped up and said, “Yes, we support him four hours a month – one hour emotional support, the rest for his finances.” I turned around and said “You’re joking! Most of the people in my life give me emotional support! And, wait a minute, you guys mucked up my money and I’m now paying back a loan. I wouldn’t be in this position if you gave me the right support.”

Next they asked “When was the last time you felt suicidal?” Well I answered saying, “Right now. I can see you have a pair of scissors in your pen holder. I want to grab them and stick them in my neck. I know the vein that will make me bleed to death.” Of course, I didn’t or I wouldn’t be writing this blog! The woman from the DWP or whatever department she was from, was tapping the keyboard so hard I’m surprised it still worked! It was like she was operating it with a hammer.

At the end when I handed over a letter about my recent surgery she just said, “It looks good.” I’m now waiting to hear but it will probably be three to four weeks was what the woman told me. After I left, my appointee asked me what I was going to do when I got home. I was still quite anxious so I turned around and said, “I’m going to kill myself,” because that’s how I felt. I still haven’t heard from him so I could be lying dead (again, I’m not because I wouldn’t be writing this blog).

So this is my experience of a DWP appointment. I would just like to say a massive thank you to several friends who have managed to put up with me moaning and complaining after it. There is no way I’m going to let the bastards get to me or get me down or get to me in any way shape or form. I thought I should blog about this so others know exactly what the experience is like. Thank you for reading it.

My first blog post


My first blog post
I have been going about from time to time, thinking about things like what will happen when the UK leaves the EU, and what it will be like when this happens – as being in the EU is all I have known in the 31 one years I’ve been alive

I also go around ranting about things like when you see people looking at other people funny when they have parked in blue badge spaces, even saying to the person “You don’t look like you need that badge!” I stand there thinking “Not everyone with disabilities has a wheelchair! Some disabilities are hidden. Your hair looks funny but I haven’t had ago at you!”

I used to go on Facebook and go on about things like this, but who wants to read a very long post on there? In fact I wonder who had the time to read them when they were so long!

So one day I thought about this, and I thought “I am going start blogging about it instead!

So I told Linda Singer at Grampian Opportunities about how I will blog one day soon, and she told me that she would read it. Well she may not after this one! Here she is getting an award for all the work she has done.

But, if she says yes to it then it must be a good idea.

So, I knew my good friend Alex was a blogger (www.thelongchain.wordpress.com), so I asked her to help me set it all up. So we did, and here is a photo of the two of us.

So I am going to start blogging. So, for mates of mine on Facebook, there will be no more rants on there, instead look for them all here. Now I’ve started, my next post will come very soon. I know what it’s going to be about – but so you come back and read it am not going to tell you at all!

By William Rae