Bognor Regis Herald — Near the Bottom Rung, family life in Bognor Regis
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by Jan Cosgrove
Now I am reasonably well-known in local life as a councillor, activist, pain-in-the-ass etc. I’ve lived in a town-house style 1860’s terrace in Longford Road, backed by the railway sidings/station since 1994. I’m there with my missus on a state pension, private rented house, mental health hostel on one side etc etc. With elderly cat Leona, large LP collection etc etc.
Nothing out of the ordinary, no car (never wanted to drive, uses Bus Card as and when), sisters in the US, good friend in the Loire Valley, so it goes.
My sons. Matt (born 1971) 2/1 degree, most recent employment, zero hours nonsense at Lancing/Goring via agency. Never knew what hours he’d get, this winter one infection after another, sickness leave (no pay), train delays (no pay), and now clinical depression. Job ended (thankfully I feel), on a sick note as they say, feeling crap,but hey, he didn’t do Tuition Fees, Mrs May, so at least not burdened by Coalition Government Debt. Matt is single, easy-going but not feeling life is offering a great deal. Oh, and on Universal Credit, so, to be honest, much of the time in recent weeks, no news, no money, but living with us on a sofa, at least he’s fed and warm. Much to show for a life working??? Well, no.
Then youngest Andy (born 1973), his life since 19 blighted by having been so gravely attacked that he almost lost his leg, and life. (Thank you, Mr Taylor, at St Richards and your team back then.) Mental health/trauma support? Ha ha ha. Counselling — well 2 visits from Victim Support. 6 years on, on cue, PTSD emerged, with a cute little number, phagophobia, or a morbid FEAR of swallowing, which means that some days he fit hardinds to swallow water even. Result, seriously underweight, probably around 1200 cals on a good day, when he needs over 2500.
Phagophobia - Symptoms and Facts of Phagophobia - Treatment of Phagophobia
Exposure treatment options offered in treating a phagophobic person have been shown to be surprisingly effective and…
Treatment? Well that’s our own ‘diagnosis’ because our health service here hasn’t bothered. Well, you see, Andy took to self-medication, alcohol, and there’s the problem because the medics have said he has to be off the booze for 6 months before they will even see him. So he has done that, sometimes for well over a year. But without the needed professional treatment from the NHS, when he succeeds in beating the booze, the anxiety/fear tends to re-emerge. So, treatment? Counselling? None. Well, he paid for some himself, can’t afford that now.
He has a lovely partner, Gemma, who has her issues, OCD/Tourettes. she manages these pretty well with drugs. Two cracking kids, Danny (11) probably on autistic spectrum, attends an excellent unit in a primary school, and Sophia (8) doing well at a local primary school.
A local doctor called us the strongest family he knows in Bognor, that’s good, we need to be. Andy has spent time here, his bro standing in like a trouper at Andy’s home in the north of the Town for over a year, a lovely social housing home, 3 beds which the excellent Carly in Arun’s Housing Options found them after some years in a private rent, mould-infested 2 bed. Thanks so much Carly, you do not know how important this has been.
So, Andy is on Employment Support Allowance (work-related), so, yes, he has had the ATOS nonsense, he should be on non-work related. Went to Pompey with him a few years back, I saw there people in a wretched state jumping through hoops, Andy got Nil Points (….) we appealed at Havant, and got 29 points. I told this recently to a CAB adviser (lovely people, you do such a GREAT job, thank you) who seemed blown away by that. You know, Andy was incapable that day of being there on his own, but as we left, there was a disabled lady about to go in, in terror and in tears, no one there to support her. Damn it, Andy was in such a bad state I could not stay to help her, I feel guilty I couldn’t.
Andy has had family support, that is why he is still alive, and I pay especial tribute to his mum, my other half, Liz, who was and IS ‘there’ for our boy. It’s odd, I sometimes get ‘insights’ (can’t really describe them) so when on a hot July evening in 1973 he was born at home, the first baby born in the street for 45 years, I saw him struggle to emerge, quite a tough fight, but the midwife was strict (we don’t need no man GP here getting in the way, I phoned but he’s on another case, what a shame) “I don’t allow stitches”, and as his head and body came through the unbidden thought came to me this boy’s going to have a hard life ….
In recent months, things have seemed to pay off, more stability, less drink, slight falls off and climb backs on that wagon. Until ….. another ATOS style encounter, at Pompey. He goes with his mum, and …. you’re fit to work, ESA ended, claim JSA. He won’t because he says he cannot sign the JSA statement he’s fit for work, which he is not. Result, in the past couple of weeks, all the work re his drinking GONE, eating worse, strain INCREASED, his mum exhausted, money situation of seven people CRAP, Food Bank visited.
Six points, and it says he’d act normally in a workplace etc. LOL but it isn’t funny. Where are we now? Awaiting DWP Mandatory Reconsideration, they will look at the decision to see if there should be a change of decision. I have written 2x , no decision yet, the days pass.
Liz, my lovely mrs, says bitterly that this cruelty has set us back, two years of hard work by her and Andy, trashed by a visit to Pompey.
I just mentioned DWP for the first time, that Public Reproach of Government, supposed to be the Safety Net yet betraying people to the point of deaths, too many, and inflicted punishment for being …. Poor, Ill and in the UK. It is not just one Party. Yes expect the Tories to want people on the floor, and I can show you a post on a Fib Dem facebook page of a local councillor claiming £24k a year expenses extolling the great work they did in the Coalition. Labour? Oh I am a Labour man, so I get to tell a Minister of theirs in the Blair years at a Councillors national conference that it was shameful they had embraced ‘workfare’ methods like craven tories. Stemming from the ‘deserving poor’ philosophy inherent in Tory policies on welfare for ever.
The truth is this system oppresses and degrades, just as well we are a strong family. And I know we are not the only families and individuals in this Town going through the mill at this time. If I have come across to some as ‘difficult’ sorry but that is how it is, there’s knock on.
Am I, my family especially disfavoured in Bognor in these matters? Of course not, but my brain is connected to my mouth and the power to type so at least I can give a coherent account of my anger.
TWO HOMELESS PEOPLE HAVE DIED ON BOGNOR’S STREETS IN TWO OR THREE YEARS (WELL ONE ON A PARK BENCH, HYPOTHERMIA, 21ST CENTURY ENGLAND). They were on the very bottom rung and slipped off.
Thank you for reading this. Things have to change, and soon.