Karl Womack is a disability activist and poet who lives in a care home. (544 words)
Karl about Karl
My name is Karl Jonathan Womack. I was born in 1966. I was born with acute paralysis, epilepsy and a learning disability. The day I was born I had a testicle removed because it was strangulated and 6 months later I had an abscess. I couldn’t walk until I was 4 years old.
I was in and out of GP surgeries. They told my parents I was lazy and retarded. Through my early childhood I had intense physiotherapy, throughout my life I’ve had psychiatry and psychology. I was bullied from the age of 8 – 40 by able bodied and disabled because I went to mainstream school despite my disabilities. I was transferred to a special school for disabled and was bullied by the disabled for looking able bodied. I have a file full of certificates. And use a pseudonym called Blaze Burnstar.
I’m 56 and from the age of 23 I lived in residential care.
Karl’s view on the current situation in social care and care homes
It has been a difficult time for people in care homes since Margaret Thatcher really. Today, politicians are saying they are protecting the vulnerable, older people, the disabled and then announce spending cuts in social care. I have seen real impacts in my life: I am worried about them taking my benefits away a second time because it has already happened once. They didn’t even bother to tell me they were doing it, not even write to me. They stopped payments for three months.
In the past years we have gone down from 12 staff looking after 23 residents to 6 staff. We now have agency workers coming in. This means we have to start all over again, getting used to new staff. Some come back, others do not. We are not getting the same care anymore.
There are all these experts and politicians who are saying they will make social care better but they just make it worse with job cuts and spending cuts. I am worried about the thoughts at the moment. For example, they were talking about rationing electricity. What about disabled people who need breathing support, they need pumps that keep them alive. What about people on life support or people who use wheelchairs? People will die from shortages of electricity and costs.
Karl’s view on involving care home residents
I want to see government recognise that we are here. There is a focus on older care home residents but what about us younger ones? I want our voices to be heard more because many of us have capacity but we are not being taken seriously when we say something. So called experts talk so much but don’t have the experience of living in a care home. But we do. Sometimes care workers do not take us seriously, there is a lack of pay, understanding and respect. I use Twitter, it helps me to get word out but it is not easy because sometimes people misunderstand me. I also appreciate a call or a letter, a Christmas card sent to me. There are many ways to get in touch with us and to involve us.
Karl Womack is a disability activist and poet who lives in a care home.