Writing



Sunlight streamed through the window.

Delphina reached for a CD on her cabinet. She held it in the light and rejoiced at the vibrant rainbow colours.

Inserting the CD in the player, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony made her spirit soar.

Delphina held a blue sandstone and felt transported to a starlit sky.

Being bedridden didn't stop Delphina from appreciating life-affirming beauty.


© Efrosyni Hobbs

Efrosyni started writing 60-word stories in January 2010 when she was in hospital, after a spinal operation, to take her mind off the pain. She has now written around 350 of them.


"Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group"

Catherine Hale

I spent about a year researching and producing a report about the "employment support" bit of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

I looked at the experience of sick and disabled people like myself placed in the Work Related Activity Group, of ESA. This was supposed to provide us with tailored support to move closer to work. In reality, just 5% of us in the WRAG on the Work Programme have moved into work since 2011.

I wrote this report to give us a voice, because the government hasn't looked into the reasons for this policy failure from our point of view, or heard about the impact it's having on our lives.

I also did it, I'll admit, out of self-interest. I might be not Fit for Work but that doesn't mean I don't want to broaden my horizons and learn new things. This project enabled me to tailor my own work experience. Having ME means I can work just a few hours a week, often lying down, with totally irregular hours due to frequent and unpredictable swings in my energy. That means it took me four months to write the report that a well person would have written in three weeks.

When I was first placed in the WRAG in 2011 I put my faith in the Department for Work and Pensions. I thought they must have a plan for people like me who can't work in the conventional sense but still want to contribute to society and need support to do so. I wasn't prepared for the experience of being cast as worthless and feckless, or for the full force of this assault on my self-esteem and wellbeing. Ironically, as a researcher and campaigner I was driven and determined, yet as a Work Programme service user I apparently needed prodding and reprimanding to stir me from my languor and aversion to work.

I've blogged here about some of my own encounters with Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme. The whole experience of being in the WRAG for me can be summed up as demoralisation and loss of confidence; as well as extreme anxiety about brutal sanctions regime.

My survey showed me that my experience was widespread. In my view, the real reason for the policy failure for the WRAG is that the system presumes that our character, morals and attitudes are holding us back from work, not our illness or disability.


CITY SHADOWS AND INNER SHAPES

I live indoors mainly. Ill with M.E.
Days of symptoms. For decades.
In a room painted cream with
Daubs of red on the walls. With
My mind, I stroke them.
Yet the city presses on me.

City full of moss and rain,
Sounds of many hearts,
The sky stained with rainbow,
And beneath the streets,
Gold. In pots and dreams.

I am a part. In this city.
Sharp with steel, and glass. Less than.
Spectacled, an Aunt. Whilst the
City's transactors extract
With smiles. For occasions.

Amongst this. I am graceless
A ghost. Slipped shadowless
From life. A shift of flesh, veiled
Marked and smeared, meandering
Fluting winds with memories.
The city, in turn, haunts me.

Curious! I listen to
Sounds of thrumming roads; a lace of
Railway tracks, wonder where they
Go. Left for more life?

I want to watch the mornings as
They roll gold into the days,
Hear sky tear, with thunder
Feel trace of wings inside1
And gentle hands caressing mine.

In the fertile blackness of
The night. When the city rests.
I imagine. The river.
Moving pebbles.
Underwater. The taste of sun.

Even when the light is grey
As though the sky was aged,
Grave, with silver bolts and rain.
I can let my thoughts become
Liquid words. Rainbows of rivers.


Lindy Armah-Kwantreng


1 This alludes to an African-American traditional story called The People Could Fly. The story is set during slavery times and tells of how the people were able to escape by reawakening ancient powers of flight.