I wrote in my other blog of my new role as an unpaid carer for my son, who struggles with depression.

I have been unable to update my old a-n blog here since it was featured, so I figured it’s time for a fresh start and am trying to work out how to keep going forward.

Am I or am I not an artist? Other artists will tell me I am, but I haven’t considered myself an artist for over a year, as I’ve been forced out of the profession by lack of properly paid opportunities and pointless bureaucracy.

You may have seen the Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 with Ade Adepitan highlighting how the benefit system abuses disabled people, including those with mental illness.

I no longer know which role I’m doing at any given time. I haven’t applied for Carer’s Allowance, because I still cite that I’m an artist by profession, which feels like a lie.

I still keep applying for funding without success, and I mostly withdraw my labour unless I’m offered proper remuneration, which is rare.

My son was diagnosed with depression back in 2013. It’s been a long journey full of great distress, and not something I felt had any relevance to my practice, I wanted to keep it separate. I still do.

I never aspired to this role, I never asked for it, and now that I have had no choice but to take it on, I now have another unpaid job to add to my non-CV of apparent “scrounging”.

Most of my time is spent reminding my son that he needs to make a doctor’s appointment, for a while I would go with him to the doctor’s, checking and re-checking dates and that he’s doing what he needs to do against all manner of pointless bureaucracy.

Keen to avoid the abuses of the DWP, he was clearly not prepared to seek work, so we applied for ESA instead, which was a process as shown in the Dispatches episode – we were told we weren’t allowed to know what criteria they based their Nurse Ratched assessment on, an assessment that completely ignored the doctor’s diagnosis that he is unfit for work. So we had to go through the appeal process, and our appeal was upheld at the end of March.

The very same week that Work And Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith resigned.

Portrait Of Ian Duncan Smith With Bandaged Nose was painted in the style of Van Gogh, after Self Portrait With Bandaged Ear, has been selected to be exhibited at the Institute for Mental Health via City Arts in Nottingham coming up in May 2016.


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I’ve been here highlighting these issues for around six years now.
With arts organisations going on about social prescribing, but still my wages to do that are spurious.

And of course, I can’t plan any more workshops to clear my overdraft now.
I’m watching with a small sense of schadenfreude as other small businesses and freelancers are plunge into the same situation as me. They are petrified and angry, as they are faced with the universal credit system, and DWP employees telling them to volunteer – highly skilled people with years of running businesses.

So the pressure is on – for the arts council to provide relief.

I don’t want to apply for grants with no guarantee of being accepted – I NEED some kind of income.
I NEED to be paid – at my rates, not universal credit, not even this pittance of working tax credit I’m receiving.

I am owed over £300,000 (at my last calculation) of unpaid wages since austerity started.

I have not stopped being an artist just because I have been economically exiled.
The skills I have have not gone anywhere – now, more than ever, I am told that our skills are needed in these testing times. Mine are pretty useful.

I am joining others to pressurise the government and the treasury into helping freelancers, and it’s obvious that Universal Basic Income is a move in the right direction.

But it would be better to simply pay artists a wage, and pay carers a wage.

At the last Carer’s Group, which has obviously now stopped, I was given an orange wristband to identify me as a carer when using NHS services. These are mainly for carers whose cared for are admitted into inpatient and acute wards for MH.
However, Im just wearing mine in general to make people aware.

Carers UK have advice for carers here

Advice for people to do art activities for enjoyment is obviously not always useful for artists struggling with money, and balancing caring with work. I am not your free online training course. Which is why I’m not going to share any useful tips for working from home whilst watching my overdraft plummet into oblivion.
It does my wellbeing no good at all.

I am thinking of focussing on my online shops – I am hoping people self isolating will be more inclined to buy art and products for wellbeing from artists’ online shops, especially now that galleries are closing, and most shops are closing.

But of course, the amount of sales and commissions never reflects all the self promotion I do!

I will be thinking of self isolation art projects where possible, (NO, I WILL NOT APPLY FOR YOUR UNPAID PROJECT!) and looking into various ways to monetise virtual workshops.

Does anyone have any loo roll?!


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It’s been a nightmare year fighting for my youngest son’s universal credit, and the debt caused by this.
However, he is now in receipt of it, so the next step is to try to get back the money we have lost to clear my overdraft, and the remaining wait for PIP, estimated to hear news sometime between April and June.

The good news is, that I will be running the first Ms Blackbird’s Art Workshop funded by Carers FIRST next month.

Carers FIRST have found a very good free space at Hartsholme Park, with enough space for 20 participants, and have funding for one workshop atm.
They are providing tea and refreshments for participants.

These are for carers for respite activity.
It is hoped that this will be the first of many!


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Last Sunday, I appeared on BBC1 Sunday Politics (Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) to ask questions for candidates for the upcoming election.

The show was specifically focussing on the NHS, so it wasn’t arts focussed, so I was speaking as a carer.

You can watch this on BBC player here.

Our local Labour candidate (and elected MP) Karen Lee did mention Labour’s proposed National Care Service.

I’m still none the wiser how Brexit is going to help, or whether the Tories will ever end the misery and abuse caused by austerity that has impacted on my career.


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It was a good trip to London for the Carers UK AGM, located in Canary Wharf, with some good speakers.

See this blog.

Whilst in London, I took the opportunity to see some related exhibitions at the Wellcome Collection, Being Human and Misbehaving Bodies.

See this blog.

It still feels like I’m a ghost haunting the graveyard of my career.


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I’ve been battling the evil of Universal Credit for the past six months.

My son left college in February, and has had no income for six months. See this blog

This is before I even contemplate how Universal Credit is going to completely destroy my own career, it has already plunged my second son into total despair as he enters the workforce. As you can imagine, the stress levels are at a critical point, and Carers UK are currently campaigning merely for Carers to get vital respite funds.

I’m lucky enough to receive some respite funds, although I haven’t actually had a break all summer, because they have been late, and originally, I was awarded £900 annually, but now it’s reduced to £600.

Of course, I know I’m a slave, so it’s little respite, when I return to unpaid bills, abuse from the DWP and the council. Recently they insisted I am “not an official carer”, because they won’t let me claim Carer’s Allowance.

So as it’s #suicidepreventionweek, and it wasn’t The Samaritans that my son rang when he was suicidal, it was the police, who rang me to ask if he could come back home, which I’d been trying to get him to do for roughly three months of hell, but don’t worry, I’m not a carer :-s

There aren’t enough Swear Trek gifs in existence for this level of pure negligence.

But the good news is, I’ve been awarded a bursary to attend the Carer’s UK AGM and Carer’s Summit in London coming up on 10th October 2019.

So the issue of carers being unpaid will be strongly contested!!

If any artists here have experiences or comments to include on how caring has affected your career, please let me know!!

I’ve also been invited to an a-n event just before, so it would suit me perfectly if this can be the Wednesday, to combine both events :-)

I’ve made a very guarded return to my arts practice, in that I may have found a way to break the economic abuse.

I was paid to participate in a sleep lab experiment, so I’m using the data to create some new sound art 

 


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