I was just chatting with a new follower on Twitter. A fellow full time, unpaid carer parent of a disabled child. In our brief chat, I said this:
“I’ve often joked (can it be a serious joke?) that carers need a union. Then maybe we’d be heard.”
Honestly, it is a good idea. But I just realised there’s a problem with my good idea:
WE HAVE NO LEVERAGE.
What would we, as carers, do if we did have a union? Our union reps could go to the bargaining table with the State and demand the desperately needed supports for us…but what would our bargaining chip be? We don’t have one, do we?
Government leaders (those who have the power to actually make our lives and the lives of our disabled loved ones fair, manageable and dare I even suggest a positive life experience by being properly and fully supported in the 24/7 work we do) know that we don’t have any bargaining chips…or do we?
We have one: Bringing our disabled child (of whatever age, that is) to our local A & E department and saying, “Here, I’m on strike. You take him/her.”
*And yes, I’ve seen this discussed in carer groups on more than one occasion. This is how in crisis so many of us truly are*
Here is where the emotional blackmail of carers comes into play. Government leaders know full well that the vast majority of us would never do that. Even though we’d collapse an already overburdened hospital system and surely we’d then be heard, they know we wouldn’t do that. Why? Because we love our child too much to do it…they know it and count on it.
They have us right where they want us: Emotionally tethered to remain in the home caring 24/7 with little to no respite help; barely making ends meet; being housebound for weeks on end at times; often fighting depression and/or anxiety; no retirement; no pension; often no social life at all; all while many of us are destroying our own physical and mental wellbeing for that of our precious, beloved, child. Because we love our child that much.
Yes, they know most of us would never place that one bargaining chip of the A & E drop on the table, and so they play their hand in advance of us even taking a stance – a hand which is surely nothing short of the emotional blackmail of carers.
Carers union, anyone?