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 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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I’m being pushed off a cliff edge.

See this blog.

Desperately trying to get help, but still getting the same passive aggressive “take care” from CAB volunteers who can’t actually help prevent financial abuse, and to which I reply that I can’t do that with no income.

The government are failing carers, and this could be safeguarded by the arts, but I’m not being safeguarded in my career.

I attended a Carer’s Breakfast last Thursday, in which Lincolnshire is pioneering ways for carers to stay in work.

The arts is no exception to this.

For arts organisations commissioning artists that are carers, arts council, for artists and other arts professionals, employers for carers is for you.

 


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PAY ARTISTS PROPERLY PAY CARERS PROPERLY PAY ARTISTS PROPERLY 


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Over the summer, I have had to deal with the bureaucracy of a PIP application for my son.

I took part in Mansions Of The Future Summer School in an attempt to try to work out how to restart my career as an artist without being forced or coerced into “volunteering”. I don’t think it was very successful, as I haven’t yet received any offers of paid work, or funding to start a new project, and I felt as though I was being coerced back into old work that I abandoned as being exploitative a long time ago.

Thankfully, I finally received a letter from the council last weekend with a reduced council tax bill.

After the stress of the PIP application, we’re awaiting the outcome.

I have completed a short five week Carer’s Mental Health training course, so I can now use this training within my capacity as an artist.

 

It seems that the conclusion (from the Arts Council) is that proposals from artists in Lincoln are not good enough, or diverse enough, and as I know, graduates are leaving the city to seek work elsewhere.

So this means that the Arts Council think that the quality of work produced by University of Lincoln students / graduates is not good enough, and I don’t believe that, I believe that graduates here are not being given the knowledge and resources to make good funding applications to produce the work we want to, to the quality we want to. We are forced to compromise our work, and set up to fail.


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As a carer, it’s hard to take time out of the constant form filling, bureaucracy, mind melting stress of the health and social care crisis, but one thing I have been fortunate to achieve is respite funding to visit family.

I normally don’t do any creative work when on a respite break, but it would’ve been silly to not go and see some work I’ve been aching to see for a while, and take the opportunity to explore the sculptural delights of Esbjerg!

So I visited Abba: Supertroupers and Adapt To Survive: Notes From The Future at the Hayward Gallery (not Lee Bul!), The Hive at Kew Gardens, and Mennesket bed Havet, in Esbjerg, Denmark.

All detailed in  my blog.

This previous blog post outlines issues affecting artists working as carers for those with mental health conditions for #mentalhealthawarenessweek

 


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