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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Earlier this month, I was paid to participate in an online discussion about arts and mental health, organised by the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance.

It was a really positive event, and payment for my expertise has now appeared in the bank, which mitigates against the impending financial catastrophe awaiting us with cuts to Universal Credit.

I’m hoping there will be more of these, as my expertise is at the forefront.


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I compiled this blog back in February, and have updated it to highlight issues of grifting that affect artists in Lincoln: https://helend-blackbird.blogspot.com/2021/02/so-social-prescribing-is-hot-topic.html

I read on social media of a friend that said she had MH, but now has a good job that she loves, a house, and a partner – all positive stuff!

So why am I battling with Carer’s Assessments to prove that although my son is functioning, and not suicidal, that he still needs support?

Carer’s Week this year was the usual boasting about carers not being paid, campaigns to make us “visible”, but not actually funding my work, and highlighting the need for respite breaks – our carer’s group were advised “if you’re at burnout (which is all carers), try to take a respite break”. But when I recently took a respite break to visit family, who I haven’t seen for a year, I was told (gaslit) that I have no caring role.

So when my friend with MH goes to work, does her partner stop caring? He seems quite vocal about how proud he is of her, so does that stop when she goes to work, and start again when she gets home?

Is it reSPITE?

Can someone commission me to make that into a neon text piece in the style of the cocktail bar sign in Cocktail?

 

 


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Next week is Carer’s Week again, and carer’s charities are campaigning for carers to be more visible.

Meanwhile, I’m campaigning for #wagesnotclaps
https://helendearnleyillustration.blogspot.com/2020/05/ms-blackbirds-birdwatching-discoveries.html

It would be helpful if other artists supported this campaign.


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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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