Philip J Connolly
New Year Love Letter
A love letter to disabled people
There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you art meant to be
All you need is love.
But wait love isn’t all you need or at least you need a higher form of love. When the BBC screened their first TV programme to the rest of the world in 1967 400 million viewers tuned in. The programme opened with a contribution from the Beatles. In a classic countercultural message the fab four sang all you need is love. Now as fifty nations impose travel bans on us for our dalliance over coronavirus what message should we go for in our Coronabrexit isolation. Not “Sorry is the hardest word” by the current wordsmith to our nation Elton John I cry out. No lets go for a real levelling up message that John Lennon would have approved off. Let the message not simply be about ending our nation’s isolation but the isolation of all too many of our own people and those in other countries too. It has to be “Imagine.” My campaign for an inclusive economy is right there in the song. “Imagine all the people sharing all the world.” The pandemic has inadvertently given us the circumstances and timing for a reset. As we rebuild our economy lets give our country a legacy, lets end the injustice of inequality. To do this we have to move beyond simply love, not being distracted by tough love or flirting with the paternalism of conditional love – No – we cannot stop until we get to the love of justice. Once we are there we will unleash the dance of equals. As Lennon sang about being in a place beyond barriers “Above us only sky! On the UK dance floor, its strictly justice.” To the world looking to catch up we really will have taken the roof off.
Disabled people need the sustenance provided by the love of justice more than most. In 2015 the Conservative Government was elected on a manifesto commitment to halve the disability employment gap. In 2017 it was elected again, this time on a manifesto commitment to reduce the gap by a million people over a ten year period. In 2019 the Conservative Government was elected simply on a commitment to reduce the gap. Fortunately whilst the Government has rowed back on its commitments others have redoubled their commitments. The spouses and parents of adult disabled sons and daughters have worked tirelessly in support of them obtaining and retaining work.
I have witnesses a lot of love. Pushy parents who have learnt to work their way through the complexity of the social care system to prevent their disabled kids having to move into older people's care homes on the basis that’s the only place they can be cared for. That’s rubbish policy. I have spoken to mothers who have learnt the personal independency payment PIP regulations to successfully win appeals over the loss of entitlement.
I have seen the love of parents who have started businesses to give disabled people employment even when they know that they cannot give the chance to their own disabled son. I have heard of the love of wives and husbands who have taken two or even three jobs to make up for their disabled partners loss of benefits. Why is it that Universal Credit and the previous legacy payments don’t have the same level of payment?
I have been awed by the agape love of disabled people who upon acquiring a disability then become fundraisers themselves. This deep love asks no questions nor is daunted by the challenge, even children are amongst its proponents. Six year old frank Mills with spina bifida walked ten metres a day to raise money for the NHS and thousands of pounds were duly raised. But it doesn’t and shouldn’t require heroism. All the Prime Minister has to do is walk next door to the chancellor and its less than the ten metres Frank Mills put himself through. Marcus Rashford has demonstrated that where indebted café owners are prepared to feed our nation’s kids and at the owners expense its expedient for the Government to picks up the bill and order the food instead.
Disabled people bring their own love and offer love in spoonfuls but they need to live amongst us to make that contribution. Its time to find alternatives to special schools and care homes that remove them our community. The Disability Resilience Network will support this love of justice. We will foster self love as an antidote to the love deficit created by another person or politician. Ross Rosenburg developed a nine stage pyramid to develop self love abundance but the bible quotation, “love thy neighbour as you love yourself” succinctly summarises it. A love of justice ought to lead to a love of rights.
To really love our country is to love our people. All of them. To love our people is to be an enabling state that offers the warmth of employment support not the icy fear of benefit sanctions. You only need to look at the way people congregate in the town hall square to know that people will take a different exit if they know it is possible to go back. Sad to say the square is empty and will be on New Years Eve too. If we are to party again we must all have not just the same square but the same invitation. As we look to 2021 lets not just rely on the vaccine. Lets give ourselves an injection of love. To quote another song I love: “Nah pop no style. I’m strictly roots. Love is all I bring.” Join the Disability Resilience network and bring the network to where you live and the love of others to your life.
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