Tory Britain: A Modern Day Disaster Zone By Lisa Mulholland 

By Lisa Mulholland 

When I hear people use the phrase ‘emergency food parcels’ it conjures up images in my head of a a war torn country or perhaps a place where a huge scale disaster has hit. I think of a place which has no infrastructure to deal with the problem at hand.

I do not think of the United Kingdom and I certainly do not think of a hardworking nurse needing to use an emergency food parcel.  Yet surprisingly and shockingly it is what is happening. Right now. All around us.

1 million emergency food parcels were given out to families in the UK in 2016 according to the Trussell Trust.

I don’t know about you but before 2013 I had never heard of the term ‘foodbank’. But now it is a term that is quite commonplace.

What does it say about us as a society when people, both working and unemployed must go cap in hand to collect an emergency food parcel?

Recently the Red Cross was called in to support the NHS in what they called a ‘humanitarian crisis’. I found this difficult to believe until I recently had the misfortune of having to visit my local A and E department. There was a 7 hour wait and when I heard the staff call out via tannoy message “We are in crisis tonight please go home unless your injury is life threatening”. I could not believe my ears. 


As a nation, we used to send emergency food parcels to countries that didn’t have an infrastructure to support its most vulnerable in times of war, drought  or disaster.

In churches, schools and local supermarkets we used to do collections for them and I remember feeling fortunate that I lived in a society that, I believed, would never experience such poverty.

But all I see is now is collections for food banks and local communities.

So what has changed?

What went so drastically wrong?

We aren’t war torn, there has been no catastrophic event and there have been no natural disasters. So where is the mainstream media outcry?

There isn’t any. It has been normalised and we have become anaesthetised to it. 

In fact, the Conservative Party and the Mainstream Media would have us believe that our economy is doing just fine. That unemployment levels are at their lowest since 1972, according to the Office of National Statistics.

And that nothing has changed.

But it has.

And quite startlingly so. The decline has been rapid.

To my mind there has been one catalyst, that has set off a chain of very unfortunate events that has led us to the situation we are in today and that was when the Conservatives entered government in 2010.  

They did not arrive in a ‘landslide’ fashion.

There was no overwhelming support for them.

They slithered quietly into power on the back of a hung parliament and had to form an alliance with the Lib Dems just to form a legitimate government.

Yet the chain of events that they have set in place with crippling austerity, targeting the vulnerable, and the disabled has been so severe that the UN launched an investigation into it.

Yes we, the United Kingdom were not only investigated by the UN but our austerity policies were found to be in breach of international human rights laws.

Shameful, abhorrent, cruel. But again, where is the media outcry?

We now hear terms like ‘the working poor’ being used. A term I have not heard in my 38 years of life but that is now a widely understood term in our society.

And now according to a leading Professor (as quoted in the Evening Standard) life expectancy improvements have now started to slow down since the dreaded year of 2010.

The rise of homelessness has doubled from 2010 and that rise is not slowing down. The number of rough sleepers has sharply increased from just under 2000 in 2010 (when Conservatives came into power) to 4,136 this year.

An increase of 134%. 

If the Conservative Party could be compared to a natural disaster, I would say the one that resembles them the most is a tsunami.

They have hit us with wave after wave of bad decisions. And it feels like it is impossible to come up for air.

Just when good old Corbyn forced a U turn on child tax credit cuts, or when the plan for all school to be academies was overturned, every victory has been minimised by the mainstream media while at the same time we are hit in the the face with some other nasty Tory policy proposal.

And that is how it has gone on.

With each fight against some awful decision; some awful cut they try to impose, they simultaneously hit us with another.

How can you come up with air when the waves of cruelty keep coming?

I feel like we are living in our very own disaster movie. You know the one where all the experts like the meteorologists warn of impending doom but no one listens until it is too late.

I feel that’s where we have been with this Conservative government.

In our case we had the economic experts warning us about Brexit. We had the small independent newspapers telling us how austerity would cause poverty. But then you had politicians like Gove putting down the experts with his famous quote last year when he said, “The people of this country are sick of experts”.

No one listened and now look.  

Most disaster movies have a happy ending. So what do we do?

Do we sit and wait for the happy ending to just arrive itself?

I certainly won’t wait. I will keep writing, blogging, petitioning and campaigning until everyone gets the message. And I urge you all to do the same.

The Conservatives don’t care about you or I (unless you are a millionaire).

They never have and they never will .

So if we want our happy ending we need to fight for it in any way, possible.  And soon!

To read more articles like this, please visit our Facebook Page The Avenger :

https://m.facebook.com/theavengeruk/
Sources

The Trussell Trust

Staying ‘Well’ : 8 Tips to Maintaining Mental Wellness By Rachael Lamb

By Rachael Lamb

This isn’t the be all and end all of staying well as I know different things work for different people and also what works for you sometimes may not at others so do go back to things you have tried before even if it didn’t help in other times because every day, every situation is different. 

First I would just like to say that I am mentally ill,  I have had therapies, counselling , lots of medications, hospital stays and so much discrimination because of this. Over the years I have struggled with suicidal thoughts, self harm , anxiety and PTSD and I have found over this time some things that help me also help others. 

Two years ago,  I was talking with my peer support worker and she mentioned needing ideas for a new occupational therapy group, so I sat and reeled off some ideas; she wrote them down and a week or so later rang and said she had some other ideas from another service user and our ideas were going to make a group which would run for 12 weeks via the mental health team and I was asked to help facilitate this. I felt like finally something good had come of my struggles.

The group ran and it was so popular than have run it 3 times a year since and are also sharing the 12 week group on a website for professionals in the UK so they too can run the groups.



Everything is low cost / free . I will gladly share details on a separate  blog but for now I wanted you to know a bit of my background and ideas for mental health. 

Anyway here are some tips I have found help me to stay ‘well’

1. Have a daily planner
  

If you are really struggling to prompt yourself to do even the minimum of tasks like self care, taking  meds , washing , eating etc , you can buy a planner to put on the wall.

Fill it leaving slots so its not overwhelming. Once you get into the routine of doing the self care stuff you can add other things like going for a walk or gardening or something you enjoy or will get you out of the house. I have a weekly planner now as my days are going OK so I have not been using it but if I feel myself sliding I will write up what I’m doing for the week and I consult it in the mornings it helps to ease stress and anxiety.


 

2. The out and about bag  

I use a zip up bag for inside my bag which is my go to area for when I’m out and about, I use the bus a lot so having things to help calm me or keep me from fidgeting and getting over anxious helps.

I have the following below in my bag, but you can put in anything you think would help you while out and about, or even have it in your living room or bedroom though I have a bigger selection of things for use in situations at home where I am anxious.

  • Hair clip to open and shut so simple but the motions helps
  • Roll on perfume , the scent helps me to concentrate on the here and now of I find myself getting distracted in a day dream 
  • Fiddle toys, there are lots on the market and I find the cube one helps me to relax and stop my hands shaking
  • Lavender balm, lavender is known for its relaxing scent.
  • Lip balm , dry lips are the worst when anxious 
  • Boiled sweets/mints to ease dry mouth
  • Little charms  that I have been given , these remind me of happy memories 
  • Hair brush and hairbands , I sweat a lot due to anxiety and there’s nothing worse than a hairband breaking so knowing I have spares and a brush to sort out my sweaty hair helps
  • Mobile phone emergency charger , I use my phone all the time when out and it helps to know my battery can be charged when needed. I have apps and the radio which help a lot.
  • Bach’s rescue remedy drops , I’m not sure if they really help but I use them sometimes
  • Promethazine ( I am prescribed this and can take it throughout the day if needed) 
  • Pen and small note pad, so I can doodle or write when needed
  • Shiny stones , because they look pretty and are smooth its a great sensory tool.

3. Find a group

Even if it is online where you can talk to others going through similar things and it is good to help others and also talk to others when you aren’t feeling so great.

4. Have a bath or shower 

I know we can get dictated to by mental health professionals to keep doing the basics but I struggled for a long time to have a bath and relax , now I found some lovely bath products and candles can really help if I’m stressed out . 

5. Try and go for a walk

Even if it is a short 5/10 minute walk each day , I used to roll my eyes and say whatever but even a short time outside can break a bad mood and help move the day forwards.



6. Try and eat 

I’m not going to say eat healthy eat your five a day but it is important that you eat ( or drink) at low points I made sure I had lots of smoothies in so I was getting some goodness , when you are on medication it is key to having something in your stomach. 

Eat little and often if you can’t face or prepare a meal. Toast , porridge, yoghurt etc , make a snack plate and includestgubgs that you fancy to encourage yourself.

Never say no to treats!

7. Engage with support 

Whether you can’t reach for the support of mental health teams or you find that you don’t get listened to, even if you have a good friend, they will listen or help you keep distracted go out for coffee/tea and relax. 

I must say at this point if you do have a named care co ordinator or mental health nurse do ask for another if you don’t feel they are helping or don’t understand you. If your relationship with them is not a good one at the times to need to speak to someone you are more unlikely to call if you don’t get on well.

 I had to do this myself recently and although it made my anxiety increase it has worked out better for me in the long run as I now have a care co ordinator who listens


8. Connect with free services who have trained volunteers. 

I stumbled upon a web service chat with trained volunteers called mental health matters. 
http://www.mentalhealthmatters.com/our-services/helpline-services/time-online/

They operate an online chat usually after the telephone line has finished late at night usually around 10.30/11pm. I found talking online really helped. Sometimes I just could not verbally get the words out and would seek support and guidance and they gave me the courage I needed when I really needed to get help.

You are never truly alone

Mental health lies to you to isolate you and it can consume you but by following your own path you can be well. It’s not a recovery , I don’t think you ever truly are recovered from mental illness but that as in life you have the ups and downs the highs and lows. 

Never be ashamed of being you, you are beautiful.



** If you need to seek support in a crisis please try and reach out. **

You can call the Samaritans just to chat, you do not have to be suicidal you can just need someone to listen and vent to and it’s completely confidential.
The number is 116 123 or you can email jo@samaritans.org although a reply may take a little while.

Family Life: The Biggest Casualty of Modern UK Culture By Kelly Grehan

By Kelly Grehan

 

Barely a day goes by without me hearing some mention of Britishness and British values. There seems to be an acceptance by some that Britain is the envy of the world. I have never been sure what this is based on.

What sums up modern British life? What are the central focuses of our culture? I’d argue money, work and the pursuit of status are what our daily lives and almost all of our time are filled with.  

I visited Holland this summer and could not help but notice how much more relaxed the Dutch way of life seems to be as oppposed to here, where many of us feel our days are about trying to cram in as much as possible. The expectation is to be a conscientious employee, always on time, never be unreliable, strive to climb the career ladder at the same time as being an involved parent, never missing a school play or sports match. keep a perfect house and helping with homework and all manner of other things. But although we might not like to admit it, our value base in this country is about putting money ahead of family life and happiness. 

We are preached to that our status is based upon our (material) assets, people seem to long to tell you how much their car/holiday/phone/home cost, and expect you to be impressed.  

There often appears to be a badge of honour in how many hours you work over what you are contracted; almost as if the company might collapse without us and many of us are forced to waste hours every week sitting in traffic jams or awaiting delayed trains as we commute to jobs far from our homes. Rising costs of living and stagnant wages leave many of us feeling stressed about making ends meet.     

But does it have to be like this? I’d argue not and that the way of life we have here can be changed. Denmark and Norway won the first and second places in this year’s World Happiness Report.  

What’s different about them? Well, both Denmark and Norways’ cultures prioritise experiences over material goods and strive for equality. They have relatively small wealth gaps and friendships are seen as a value. Both nations cherish sharing activities with friends and family.

In the Norwegian language there is even a word for helping each other without being paid;  ‘dugnad’. 

Occasions where everyone contributes their time and skills for the good of the neighbourhood is seen as vital for the good of all. Similarly, Danes might pay extortionate amounts in tax, but this has given them a sense of cohesion; everyone having a stake and everyone getting something back. Unlike here where post compulsory education without being linked to career aspirations is regarded as an extravagance, most Danes take weekly evening classes, all free at the point of receiving them. How many of our lives would be enriched if that were the case here?

One reason people in Denmark have time for enrichment is that they simply do not work the hours we do. The average working week in the UK is now 43.6 hours compared with a European average of 40.3 hours. Danish workers work an average of 26 hours and Norwegians 33.  

One of the sad things about our culture, in my view, is the failure of us as a society to put family life first and the impact it has our children.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last year conducted a study of children across 44 countries. The results made for grim reading, It found Britain’s 15-year-olds are suffering due to ‘pressure at school, feeling fat and drinking too much.’ They were less likely to report ‘good life satisfaction’ than their foreign counterparts.  

73% of girls and 52% of boys in England felt pressured by school work, significantly higher than the average of 51% of girls and 39% of boys across all countries. 

While 50% of girls and 25% of boys in England think they are too fat, higher than the average 43% for girls and 22% for boys across all countries.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers have consistently argued that the mental health of children as young as six is being blighted by exam stress. We have increasing numbers of young people self harming and suffering from anxiety and stress. Although there are many reasons for this, I would argue the culture in this country which judges everyone, regardless of age on their possessions and status is at least partly to blame. Children are judged on their test scores, their school’s place in the league tables, their clothes, their family status, where they live and all manner of other things that should not be important. So, it is no wonder, like British adults, so many children cannot escape the feeling they are not good enough.

What about if Britain had a culture where employers encouraged and helped promote family life and other activities? What about if when meeting people for the first time we asked people about their hobbies and interests instead of where they live and what we do for a living? 


What about if spending time doing community based activities was the norm? What about if we judged each other by our actions and nothing else – not appearance or status or possessions?

I think we would all be much happier. Isn’t that what we should strive for as a culture rather than the best GDP or the most millionaires?  

To read more articles like this by The Avenger please visit our Facebook page 

https://m.facebook.com/theavengeruk/

Mental Health ‘Care’ is Not What you Might Expect By The Masked Avenger Anonymous 

Author Anonymous

* Please note trigger warning ( suicide) *


I’ve been detained under the MHA (Mental Health Act) twice within the last two years. I will describe my own experience of my last admission. 


I have 3 mental health diagnosis, an eating disorder in which I have a lot of fear foods plus an allergy to wheat and gluten, I have PTSD for which I can be triggered and recurrent depressive disorder. The latter means that my mental health fluctuates in waves going from a flat enjoying nothing mode in which I manage to function and maintain normal acts of daily living such as getting up and out of bed, washing and dressing and eating the foods I will eat. 

I have a fear of phones but keep in touch with my 2 friends and 2 of my children by text and I will talk to my GP on the phone.

 
In the low periods despite attempts to change I can’t gather the energy to get out of bed apart from loo trips. I don’t wash or dress, my eating varies and I withdraw from the world and push people away. I spend most of my awake hours crying, and honing down my suicide plan to the final piece as I lose all hope that I’ll ever get better and the emotional pain is so intense I’m unable to cope with it. 

On this occasion my care coordinator had visited me and said that she would be requesting a MHA assessment and left the house. I paced around crying having found my first hospital admission awful and not wanting to go again. I wanted to take my overdose to end my life but thought the MHA crew would appear and save me and I didn’t want to be saved.

Eventually at 8pm, eight hours after my care coordinator had left, I managed to phone the out of hours team to find out what was going on and I was informed that the MHA assessment was booked for 10am the following morning. With this information I believed I had the time needed to end my life and took most of the tablets in my bedside drawer. A mixed overdose of about 8 drugs but including tricyclic drugs I’d previously stored at a time I was prescribed them. 

I lay on the bed fully clothed in clothes I’d been in 24/7 for several days. I didn’t expect to wake up. I remember nothing from that moment to waking on a ward in the medical hospital. 

It transpired that the 2 doctors and AMHP had arrived and not being able to obtain entry asked a neighbour (who has been nasty to me since I moved here so I avoid him) to climb in my bedroom windows and let them in. They couldn’t rouse me so I was taken to hospital where I woke later. It was a couple of months before discovering my neighbour had been in my bedroom and was aware as he gleefully told my daughter about it. 

What happened after…

So the MHA assessment took place in the medical hospital at 2am the morning after I was found and I was detained under section 2. I remained in this hospital for a further 36 hours as there were no beds. My bed was an observation bay right by the nurses station, the lights were on full there all night but I wasn’t allowed to draw the curtains for shade so I could sleep so I didn’t manage to sleep at all in that light. 

I was then transferred to the psychiatric hospital acute ward and shown my room. There I stayed in bed, still fully clothed completely covered in a sheet apart from loo trips for over a week. I cried the whole time and if I slept during the night I don’t remember it. I was aware of every hourly check from staff looking through the bedroom door all day and all night. 

Once or twice people put a plate of food on the bedside table and left it there but the food was all my fear foods as was everything in the canteen so I ate practically nothing during my whole stay. 



After a week and a bit I asked whether it would be possible to be taken home to collect some clothes as I’d been wearing the outfit I’d been detained in day and night since. I asked every day but was told there were no available staff to do so. On day 12 I went to the ward manager’s office and said how long I’d been in my clothes and how I needed things from home. Within an hour a member of staff took me and I collected night clothes, another outfit and toiletries. After this time I started to go into the lounge occasionally but was frightened of 3 ladies on the ward, 2 of which had major anger problems and 1 was extremely unwell and very unpredictable.

One of the ladies with anger issues later told me she didn’t want to be discharged as her partner was violent and she had nowhere else to live so every time discharge was talked about, she’d deliberately kick off meaning her discharge was delayed. She assured me she’d be there months. 

The canteen was terrifying for me. I’m frightened of men and the dining room was shared with the male ward. Many of the men behaved badly making obscene suggestions as well as throwing chairs etc. 

There was no food I could eat anyway so sometimes I’d grab a banana from the fruit bowl and immediately go back to the ladies ward. This satisfied the staff I was eating and the staff in the dining room could tick me off their list. Sometimes I’d take a bite of the banana but usually didn’t and would bury it under paper towels in the bin back on the ward.  
One teenager cut herself so badly during the night she was whisked off with the 2 qualified members of staff to A&E in the adjacent hospital. They never returned so no one could have medication and the following day the consultant was at the main hospital too. The teenager never returned, I’ve no idea if she survived. The things from her room were bagged up and taken away from the ward. 

Apart from a mindfulness session every weekday morning nothing else was on offer. I didn’t go to the sessions due to fear of the men but I have done mindfulness to death in the community and despite hours and hours of practice find it never helps me at all. But for some reason mental health professionals think it cures all psychiatric ills and it’s the only therapy I’ve been offered in the community in my 7 years with them. 



During my weeks on the ward I only ever saw one qualified nurse in the lounge, sitting and talking to patients. She’d bring her laptop in to write up her notes on Rio but would talk to patients alongside this. She was really nice, I’ve heard she’s left now which is sad. The only times I saw qualified staff was at the hatch to the medicine room as they dished out tablets. Apart from those times they stayed in the ward office and we never saw them. I had a named nurse who I never met. 

There were 2 or 3 health care assistants who were visible and about the ward, they were all male but we’re quiet and calm so I was able to cope with them with no problems at all and one in particular was kind. 

I was discharged feeling no better. At home my dining table was covered in piles of thing labelled with who they were to go to, and 3 envelopes containing letter to my children. 

On my discharge notes it said I’d spent the first 10 days asleep in bed!! So all those days I’d cried day and night barely catching snatches of sleep, I was apparently asleep the whole time. 

The thing is no one ever talks to you or asks you anything so they guess and assume and that’s the basis of their paperwork. My diagnosis was even better, it was factitious disorder which totally shocked me once I’d looked it up. Fortunately both the community CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) and my GP said that was total rubbish. CMHT told me that hospital consultant is renowned for his bizarre and incorrect diagnosis. Useful. Not. The only thing that kept me sane there was my weekly phone call from my GP. She’d listen to what was happening, how I was feeling and what was being said and she’d spend 30-45 minutes helping me make sense of it all and help me see things from a different perspective. Ironic really that the only helpful member of staff during my time there was my GP back at my surgery! To me that ward is nothing but a holding cell. 

Therapy would be good as would be some interaction with qualified staff or your named nurses. And it seems when someone is detained and needs a bed, the patient on the ward they deem to be the least risk is immediately discharged, better or not, to make room for the new arrival. Because I was quiet and not disruptive, that was me.

I hope one day that I’ll be offered some therapy from the community team. But I’ve asked for CBT or a psychological assessment several times and the answer has always been no. I want to leave CMHT as I’ve found little helpful and they’re not proactive but my GP encourages me to stay with them because with my recurrent depressive disorder I get low, and when I get low I get very very low and lose all hope. But I have no intention of going back into that hospital again, no help is available there and the diagnosis you come out with is fictitious in itself.

This was written for you by a Masked Avenger. A Masked Avenger could be any one of our regular writers, a group of writers or a guest writer. Written to bring you uninhibited truths that need to be told.

If you would like to submit an article to the Masked Avenger please email us at: the-avenger1@hotmail.com

The Avenger Review: Harry Leslie Smith ‘Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future’

By Kelly Grehan
 

In 2013 Harry Leslie Smith was an unassuming 91 year old Yorkshireman when he wrote an article for the Guardian called ‘This Year I Shall Wear A Poppy For The Last Time.’ This was shared 60,000 times. He was then asked to speak at the Labour Party Conference and wrote two books: ‘Harry’s Last Stand’ and ‘Love Among The Ruins’. He now has a massive twitter following and runs a weekly podcast and speaks at events all over the country.

 

Now age 95 Harry has published his third book, described as a ‘call to arms’ called ‘Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future.’

 

The book starts with Harry reflecting upon his feelings of disappointment and fear of what lay ahead on the night of the Conservative election victory in 2015. It then compares Harry’s miserable experiences growing up in absolute poverty with those in similar positions today.  

 

Throughout, Harry uses facts and statistics to make his point, for example when discussing his brutal experiences of a childhood spent in transit from one set of poor accommodation to another even poorer one he points out that the use of private rental accommodation has risen by 50% since 2002 and that this, along with rent rises has doomed many children to repeating his own fate. He expresses his pain at the fate of old age being to see ‘society gravitate back to the past.’

 

Harry shows great shrewdness in recognising the causes that allowed fascism to spread during his youth and how some many of the same courses have led to a climate where Brexit and Donald Trump have gained power and that these, in turn are a threat to our core belief systems, with ‘compassion and decency’ now at risk.  

 

He (controversially) makes the point that ‘perhaps it is the young today that have wisdom because they are learning to live with the selfishness of the baby boomer generation that helped create neo-liberalism and made it fashionable to disparage the welfare state while enjoying all its benefits.’

 

Speaking of the aims of society, Harry says ‘Our thirst to do good things like find a cure for cancer and our hunger to do harm to others like selling weapons to Saudi Arabia astonish me.’

 

Despite his age, or maybe because of it, Harry has lost none of his enthusiasm in the belief in a better world or the belief that people, especially young people deserve better. He speaks of the injustice that a child’s economic place at birth determines so much of what they are or are not entitled to.  

 

One of the most poignant parts of the book for me are Harry’s recollections of the humiliation which comes with poverty – both for adults and children. The stigma of poverty leads to negative self image and self blame. Reading this I could not help but picture those families reliant on food banks and the message we, as a society are sending those reliant on charity for food, about their worth,  

 

With so few of those from the Second World War now left to share their experiences of life prior to the Welfare State and the NHS, it can sometimes feel like ancient history and that we are safe from the issues that pained that period. But of course, by comparing modern issues- poverty, poor housing, a rise in fascism, no refuge from domestic abuse, unaffordable health care – Harry shows that they battles won in 1945 need fighting once again.  

 

Seeing Harry’s strength in fighting against the ills of the government at his advanced years is truly inspirational. I hope reading this book encourages more people to leave their complacency behind and fight for a better, more just society as Harry and his comrades did in 1945.  

 

The great thing about Harry’s writing is it speaks across generations. I’ll be buying copies for my Grandad and my friend’s 16 year old for Christmas.  

 

Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future by Harry Leslie Smith is available to buy now.

The NHS Staff Are Heroes, So Why Do We Let The Government Treat Them So Badly? By Kelly Grehan

This article was originally written in the Summer by Kelly Grehan
  

Two weeks ago I had a mastectomy. I went into St Thomas Hospital where surgeons removed my (currently) healthy (and frankly beautiful) breasts and reconstructed new ones using tissue from my stomach in what is known as diep flap reconstruction.

 

The reason I chose to do this is I have a defective brca 1 gene. This gene is usually a tumour suppressor, but it’s faulty status in my body gives me an 80% chance of developing breast cancer.

 

Since I told people about my decision to proceed with the operation, thus reducing my cancer chances I’ve had a lot of people tell me I’ve made a brave or heroic decision. Of course, that is not true, I was in the fortunate position to be able to take control of my own health and future. There is a hero in my story of course, in fact there are several: the NHS and their staff.

 

How could I have taken a decision like this without the NHS? From the moment I saw a genetic counsellor at Guy’s Hospital who talked me through the decision to take the diagnostic test to the nurses I saw at the Wound Clinic today I have been treated as an individual with individual needs and have been dealt with by highly trained individuals too numerous to mention, but that include surgeons from two highly trained teams (breast and plastics), anaesthetists, researchers, specialist nurses, physios and other great professionals like porters and health care assistants as well as volunteers supplying services such as the patient cinema at St Thomas’ and helping in the waiting room at clinics.

 

In all of this, despite the nature of the decision I made and the operation meaning I spent a lot of time undressed I never felt I was losing my dignity. I was helped to shower, comforted as I vomited, helped into bed and had my complicated wounds checked every single hour. The empathy of the nursing and other staff left me feeling good about myself.  

 

I also never had to make any decision in which cost had any bearing at all. Money was simply never mentioned at any stage. Compare this to the situation I could have faced were I an American citizen where my decisions would be governed by the level of insurance I had. Where I may be tied to my job because of the insurance package it gave were the procedure to go wrong at any point and revisions needed. Where I might find parts of my treatment were covered and others not and where the threat of reduction in Obama Care might have forced my to make decisions early.

 

Now ironically my hospital room overlooked the Houses of Parliament and I happened to be recovering when the Labour Party amendment to give public sector workers a modest pay increase was voted down by the tories to cheers and cackles. Austerity has left public sector staff getting progressively poorer year on year. At the same time the tories have continued to cut tax for top earners.  

 

The number of billionaires in the country has actually risen, this is in a context where the nursing bursary (a recognition of the work students nurses provide on wards up and down the country and the hours they study making it difficult for them to support themselves) has been scrapped. Rather than scrapping it there is a credible argument student nurses should be paid the minimum (sorry, living) wage for the hours they spend working for the NHS. Indeed I was cared for by several students nurses during my stay in hospital. Looking after sick people is no easy task and they all did brilliantly. It’s an absurd thought that they are reliant on loans and overdrafts to allow them to carry out this work and that after a 12 hours shift in the hospital some will have been off to other jobs just to pay their rent. The nursing courses are tough, and that is right as it is hard work, physically, emotionally and academically. Why on earth would we make it hard to survive financially too?

 

It’s not just student nurses hit by austerity. 17 nurses a day apply for payday loans and there has been a rise in nurses attending food banks. A 40,000 shortage in nurses is, maybe unsurprisingly, predicted,

 

Then there is the treatment of other hospital staff. For example last week porters, security staff and domestics at Barts Health NHS Trust who are actually employed by Serco (but paid for by taxpayers of course) decided on strike action. They are asking for a 30p per hour pay increase. Serco made profits of £82 million last year.  

 

This country is the 6th richest on earth. Why are we happy to treat our health care workers with such disdain? I owe the NHS staff a huge debt of gratitude, as do many others. I am ashamed that this country is not prepared to reward them with recent pay and conditions and I fear in the future many people, in my position will simple to enjoy the excellent treatment I did.  

For more articles like this please visit our Facebook page The Avenger :

https://m.facebook.com/theavengeruk/
 

If only my job were a tin of Heinz Baked Beans: By Lucy Chapman 



If my job were a tin of Heinz baked beans, I would be earning £63,000 a year. I am not.

I always feel a bit inadequate, a bit of a failure for not being able to quite manage from one month to the next. Me and my husband are both teachers so I feel that in a just world, we should be quite comfortable yet this is not the case.

Don’t get me wrong, we usually have a bottle of wine in the cupboard and our children get an occasional magazine or trip to soft play. We’re fine. But if something breaks it stays broken… for months. We have no savings to cover a punctured tyre or a wind-blown fence and we usually have to put petrol or a food shop on to a credit card at the end of the month.

These feeling of failure, along with a deep bitterness that I couldn’t take more time off work to raise my children and with my all too acute awareness that I am nowhere near as poor as the poorest in this country (how on earth do other people manage?) drove me to do some number crunching.

I feel inadequate, but this is in comparison to what has gone before us. That’s all we have to compare with, right? So I looked at what a teacher’s salary would have been in 1995, for someone with the same number of years experience as me. I was just starting secondary school myself in 1995. I found out that they would earn £28,329. Lovely.

So to understand what sort of life I’d have been having were I born 20 years earlier, I did a quick Zoopla check to see how much I’d have paid for my house back then. The answer: £43,000. In that 20 years, my house has increased by a staggering 215%. I bought this house, a 45 minute drive from where I actually wanted to live, because it was cheap.

If a teachers salary had increased at the same rate, I’d be on over £89,000 today. I am not. £89,000 is considerably more than both mine and my husband’s salaries combined. No wonder one wage isn’t enough to support the whole family any more!

But house prices, deposits and mortgage repayments are just one aspect of living. What about fuel costs and food?

In 1995 the average domestic fuel bill was £90. Today it’s £125. 140% of what it was. If my job was fuel, I’d currently be on £39,500. I am not.

A tin of Heinz baked beans in 1996 cost 33p (please excuse the inconsistency, 1995 baked beans data is difficult to find!) whereas at 75p today, they’ve more than doubled in price.

If my value as a teacher doubled like a tin of beans, I would be earning £56,000 – £63,500 a year. Maybe then I could fix my leaking washing machine or stop worrying about that knocking noise my car makes. I could maybe even save a little money, and pay for my children’s university fees. But that’s another story, for another day.

So what’s my point? That teachers should be earning over £63,500? No, not really but that something has to give. We cannot blame parents for not staying at home when they can’t afford to; we cannot be blaming benefit claimants who work a 40 hour week on minimum wage because that wage doesn’t cover their bills; we can’t blame people living off welfare who’ve chosen to raise their own children but who can no longer manage on a single wage. We can not, must not, will not allow our government; the people voted in to represent us and be our voice, to use that voice to accuse poor people of bad money management. People want to be able to earn an honest living and with that hard earned cash be able to put a roof over their family’s head, cover the fuel bills and buy a tin of beans (not caviar) to put on their toast.

In 1995/96 we wouldn’t have dreamed of this struggle. Remember: things could only get better…

For more articles like this please visit our Facebook page The Avenger:

https://m.facebook.com/theavengeruk/