I am an old millennial, an immigrant in the UK working in the arts, and now I am going to be a mother. If you have ever read this article about Lucy you probably know why I am always unhappy, so I won’t repeat it, but I want to tell you about a few of my friends who are Lucys with a learning disability.
Alison, JoAnne and Anna are some of the rare cases of people with learning disabilities employed as professional artists by Mind the Gap theatre company, under the government’s supported employment scheme. This means they get paid to be actors. I got to know them when I joined the company in 2010. Since then I have made and performed in many shows with them and toured to countries like France, Switzerland, Germany and Singapore. I didn’t realise people with learning disabilities could do these things before I joined the company.
A couple of years ago, I started to hear (fear) the clock ticking but I was still struggling with ‘adulting’: career in the arts, save for a mortgage, bills, laundry, weeds in the garden, that broken cupboard door, etc. How am I ever going to look after a helpless little human being? Then Alison came to work looking obviously stressed out one day. She told me that she was involved in the family support planning of her pregnant sister who is on the autistic spectrum.
“Family support planning?” I asked.
“Yes, it is part of the assessment.” Alison answered.
“Assessment? Of what?” I continued, still puzzled.
“Because my sister has a learning disability, she needs to go through this assessment with the social worker to see if she can keep the baby. Her husband is also learning disabled so that doesn’t help, the social worker wants to know who can be around to support.” Alison stated, as-a-matter-of-fact-ly.
I was baffled! After some Googling, I found this Parental Assessment Manual, in which over 300 skills are assessed including how to change a fuse. More stories surfaced when I dug deeper, most were sensational and melodramatic; worthy of EastEnders. Worse still, the stories were…