Nearing the end of the series, but still some distinctive voices to hear from. And few are as distinctive as the wonderful Jacqui Law’s. Jacqui is mum to Dancing Queen Sarah and supports other families who have a child with additional support needs through her work with Contact a Family Scotland. She also blogs at for Scotland’s Disabled Children (fSDC) as Jacqui’s Blog Off .
Like previous contributors, like all of us in some way or another, my feelings about politics, politicians and elections are heavily influenced by my upbringing.
My parents moved to Easterhouse when it was being built (or thrown up depending on whether you lived there or not). My dad trailed the not even finished streets drumming up support for the Labour party. My mum voted but had no real understanding of politics. But like my father she had a very strong sense of justice and social responsibility. Growing up in Easterhouse in the 60s and 70s I had a heightened sense of politics, social injustice and social responsibility.
There were 5 of us siblings and we all had different views and this was encouraged, as long as you could explain your position, and were smart enough to listen to someone else with a different view, because then you would learn. The idea of someone not voting was just not acceptable to my family. As I grew older I continued to be political, believing that we could change society. I had seen violence, deprivation, warrant sales, wonderful people living difficult lives. I had seen my father die aged 48 and my mother break her back in a factory to feed us, enrich us, empower and free us from her own lifestyle. I thought I had seen every form of discrimination and social injustice. And still I believed in politics, not so much the politicians I had encountered but I had not only the arrogance of youth on my side but the passion it brings so I believed it would change.
But now here I am wondering who to vote for and whether there is any point . Because I hadn’t seen it all. Not until Sarah was born.
My daughter is different. She was born with complex disabilities. And being a mother changed my life. Being a mother of a child like Sarah, well that changed everything.
Suddenly I became aware that the feelings of being an underclass I had encountered growing up in Easterhouse were nothing compared to being part of the world of disability and caring. You reading this may find that strange. After all hasn’t the role of carers now, finally, come to the fore in the manifestos this last week. Isn’t the plight of the poor wee disabled wean highlighted every year with Children in Need. Yes it is, and how we pat ourselves on the back for our contribution, how those in power pat me on the head for being so very, very dedicated. Excuse me while I scream.
Over the years I have, time after time, been astonished that people don’t understand my situation or that of my daughter. Apparently there is a wee fairy who gives people like me free cars, huge amounts of money and anything I ask for. The wee fairy obviously lost my address.
It occurred to me that parents of typical children genuinely don’t see that they benefit from society. And this is probably because they are not constantly being told how much their loved ones cost society, whereas we are. By newspapers, by politicians, by social work when they tell us how much our few hours of short breaks cost a week and how this means someone else isn’t getting. And as awful as it sounds I have in the past used humour, sarcasm and fiction to make those people stop and think.
Now we have an election coming. Now is when, more than ever, we need people to understand that how our sons and daughters are treated is a yardstick for how we intend to be as a society. To realise that our issues are, indeed their issues.
What do I want? I want a Government strong enough to be a moral compass for society.
I want us to remember that how we treat those most vulnerable is a yardstick for how we are as a society. I want politicians to realise, and to make everyone aware, that giving me extra respite is all very well. But…we have not even begun to address the blatant discrimination and lack of services for children like Sarah.
Would you, I wonder, be happy if your child had to go to the toilet in public? Of course not, what a stupid, stupid question! Why then is it acceptable for disabled children to be changed in car parks and waiting rooms because the toilet facilities in public buildings do not accommodate wheelchairs or have space for the young person to lie down. Why are women I know working 3 jobs at minimum wage to buy continence products because there is a quota (yep there is actually a shit quota) on the amount of nappies you can have, and if your son or daughter is doubly incontinent and as old as Sarah you can expect to be paying out a lot of money. See that wee fairy? Would someone tell her where we all live please.
So yes, I want change, I want people to do the right thing. I want to be able to go back to being that woman who fought for all people. I still believe in those same values and I will fight for free education. I will argue for an end to Trident. I will support any government who gives people a living wage, who tries to address social and economic deprivation. A government smart enough to know that changes do have to be made in the NHS, Education and Local Government and Civil Service.
And I even have suggestions! Use the tax raising powers to find the money to fund the changes needed for kids like Sarah. Use your not inconsiderable influence, First Minister, to persuade the Banks to set up a system whereby a set percentage of their profits is used to provide low and fixed rate loans to those in need – let’s kick loan sharks and all those shameful perfectly legal companies charging exorbitant rates out of our country.
Stop freezing council tax…yes you heard right. Seducing the populace with a wee freeze and using the money which was meant for kids like mine is shameful.
And whilst I believe that a good solid base is needed and therefore, we have to make sure the policies are good.. I am sick to the back teeth of hearing about strategies and policies and forums. If any local authority is spending more on discussing issues than resolving them, there is something wrong. So… I want every local authority to buy a new App, yep a wee phone one for meetings. You put in the salaries of all present, you press start and at the end of the meeting you work out how much it cost. And I will bet it cost more than providing continence products, orthopaedic boots and wheelchairs.
Yes I want a lot. I want us to be proud of who we are in this country but honest enough to know we need to change many things.
For me, if I could have one thing from this election I would ask that we have a society who accepts, respects and values my daughter for what she brings to this world and stop looking at what she costs us. To see that she is not a child in need, but a child with rights.