23 March 2010

Sport Relief and child carers

As I type there's a builder putting my kitchen back together in a slightly more accessible way after demolishing it last week. My home is in utter chaos. All the contents of my kitchen have been piled up in my living room so I can't get in there. My whole flat is filled with demolition dust. It's all pretty grim. (If you're at all interested you can see the photos here. So far I've managed a photo a day.)

I'm spending my days sat in my bedroom with my laptop atop my lap mostly watching TV shows on it. With all the dust and the complete lack of kitchen I'm staying at Lilwatchergirl & her Girl's during the week and then staying at my dad's at the weekends. The BettyCat is staying at dad's while the builders are here so she doesn't end up like the cat in A Bucket of Blood so the weekends are my chance for some Betty snuggles.

It's a well known fact that I'm a telly addict, or I like to think of myself as a 'professional telly watcher': My MA is in Cult Film & TV so watching TV is currently my occupation. And yes, I really am still doing a supposedly one year course that I started in 2007; chronic illness, surgery, mum dying, injury leading me to spend 8 months on painkillers that make me sleep all the time, 2 months of swine flu because my immune system is buggered, dad in hospital and still several chronic illnesses have made the course last somewhat longer than intended. Thankfully Brunel have been great about how utterly shit my life is.

Despite being a massive consumer of TV I generally only watch scripted drama TV, I almost never watch chat shows, game shows, the news (which I prefer to access online), panel shows or general daytime tripe. And I also almost never watch TV as it's broadcast, preferring to make use of services like iPlayer.

I'm not living in my own home at the moment though because it's a building site. Staying with other people I'm finding myself watching things I wouldn't usually watch. When someone's good enough to let you sleep at theirs you can't really grab the remote and turn off their favourite show. So on Friday night I found myself watching Sport Relief, which I almost certainly wouldn't have watched if I could get anywhere near my own TV. It was pretty funny. Smithy's sketch, the Olympian and Paralympian Choir and the Ashes to Ashes sketch were the highlights for me.

Some of the appeals were heartwarming. Chris Moyles crying because he'd just seen a baby die from malaria prompted such generosity that they repeated that appeal again an hour later.

But a couple of the appeal videos made me want to smash dad's tellybox in frustration: The videos of children who care for disabled parents. Obviously I wasn't annoyed with the children themselves; their lives suck. They've been forced into a terrible situation and absolutely deserve to be helped.

What made me feel sick was that in a supposedly first world country in the 21st century child slavery is still legal. There's no need for it to be, and it's not something that can be fixed by Sport Relief providing these children with a befriender for 2 hours a week.

If those disabled parents had all their support needs met then the children would be free to be children and would be able to have the carefree childhood they should have. It's a simple fix.

It all starts with a faulty assumption that if a disabled person has a child, or a person has a child then becomes disabled that that child will automatically care for their parent. Laurence Clark once wrote a brilliant article about this assumption. I'm a child of not just one but two disabled parents and I never once had to perform any care roles for my parents. (Yeah, OK, I was more severely impaired than the 2 of them put together up until I started secondary school, but we'll just gloss over that.)

My parents had a care package meaning that I never had to worry if mum would need help getting things down from a high cupboard or carrying the shopping home. When they both had separate accidents in 1994 resulting in a reduction in mobility for both of them that package was increased dramatically. By this point I would've been able to perform a lot of "care" tasks; no longer breaking my bones with such regularity I'd learned to walk a little and was able to push a manual wheelchair infinitely. I could've done the shopping and the cooking and picked up things one of them had dropped on the floor, but I never had to, they had assistance to do the things they couldn't allowing me to be a teenager.

All children in the UK should be free from slavery. All disabled people should get their assistance needs met. If all disabled people got their needs met there would be no need for any child to enter into this one form of legal slavery.

Right now we are in an amazing position to change the lives of young carers. We have a general election coming up. A £5 donation to Sport Relief might give a young carer an hour with a befriender to go bowling but demanding that the politicians gaining power in 2 months time meet the assistance needs of their disabled parents can give those same children back their childhoods.

So please take this opportunity to lobby the candidates in your area about this issue. You have the power to make a real change for these children and their parents. Change that no Sport Relief project can bring. With disabled people being enabled and their children allowed to be children your £5 can then go to buying mosquito nets to save the lives of babies like this one in a country where we Brits don't have the power to effect political change.


  1. I went to Brunel too! Left about 2 years ago.

  2. Brilliant. This is more or less what I have been saying for ages, although it doesn't count from non-disabled, non-child me. This also partially applies to unpaid carers who are not children, but they have voices and are quite good at shouting, so they can do their own campaigning.

  3. Anonymous2:23 pm

    Of course, if "care services" were banned from charging utterly usuary and unreasonable rates just because fees are normally attracting some goverment assistance, we could cater for slightly over twice as many hours with the same £16.20, and perhaps that £5 would buy nearly an hour's care service.

    My daughter was a grand total of TWO when social services decided she could take responsibility for the laundry...