My name is Kelsey Trevett, I’m 17-years-old — 18 at the end of the month —, and as I write this, it’s the evening of 12th December 2019. The UK has finished voting in a general election which has the potential to change the face of our country’s political landscape for a generation, and the Exit Poll has just forecast the largest Conservative majority for more than 30 years.
I have never been more scared.
I was born with a form of genetic cancer, which following diagnosis, led to the removal of my left eye, aged just 16 weeks. Routine check-up appointments followed for the next five years — discharge was on the cards, until, aged five, a second tumour was found to be growing in my right eye. Chemotherapy, followed by a radioactive plaque, followed by treatment after treatment — nothing worked, and my right eye was removed, when I was just six-years-old, leaving me blind.
Now, I am dependent on the National Health Service, with lifelong oncology, and a heightened risk of secondary cancer. The NHS saved my life, twice: I am here thanks solely to it.
Today, the Conservatives threaten my health.
In order to complete my A-levels, necessary for me to achieve my goal of attending university, I have had to move away from home, to Hereford, in order to receive anything close to adequate support to provide me with equal opportunities, and equal shot at my aspirations, at life. There are other advantages to attending a specialist FE college — independent living input, for one —, but moving more than 100 miles from home, simply to receive an education which, for everyone else, is a basic right, is wrong. The Conservative government, over the past nine-and-a-half years, have squeezed funding for Special Educational Needs provision to within an inch of its life, and then squeezed some more. Remaining at home to study wasn’t an option for me — it isn’t an option for so many others in my situation —, but the alternative doesn’t come without a fight for (you guessed it) funding, for equality. Any thought for the individual, for their needs, prospects, abilities is quickly and deliberately dismissed. My education is nothing more than a statistic, a box-ticking exercise, and so long as I leave the education system, qualifications or no qualifications, university place or no university place, employment or no employment, I am one more piece of paper swept off of the desk.
Today, the conservatives threaten my education.
During this election campaign, I, amongst others, have heard some of the most terrifying political opinions rise to the surface, leaving the lips of Conservative party candidates, and leaving irremovable gashes in my hopes for the future. Just last week, the Conservative party candidate for Hastings and Rye, Sally-Ann Hart, claimed that she believed that some workers with disabilities should be payed less than the minimum wage, because ‘they don’t understand money’. In one sentence, she blots out the progress made by those who fought for equality, who fought to be seen as human beings. In one prolonged silence, the Conservative party didn’t disagree.
Since 2013, under the Conservative disability benefit reforms, more than 17000 people with disabilities have died whilst waiting the average 14 weeks between making a claim, and receiving any form of benefits. This is nine per day. The Conservatives expect people just to wait, to survive, whilst the heartless bureaucracy, with no regard for life, grinds on; those with cancer, terminal illnesses, and conditions preventing them from gaining employment are turning in desperation to food banks. Not all of them make it.
Today, the Conservatives threaten my future.
I am a product of politics: without he NHS, I wouldn’t have been so lucky; without an education system, I would have no future; without secured equality and support, I will have nothing. The privatisation of the NHS, the further squeezes to SEND budgets up and down the country, the thoughtless dismissals of equality and dignity — these are the things which threaten my life, as a young disabled person.
This isn’t the full extent of things: it’s the tip of the iceberg.
As a soon-to-be university student, I’m threatened by currently-high, possibly to-be-higher tuition fees.
As a student of European languages, I am threatened by the Conservatives’ hard-Brexit approach.
As a member of one of the youngest generations, I am threatened by the Conservatives’ careless neglecting of our environment, of our world.
It’s time to speak out. It’s time that this message was shared, that the extent of the Conservatives’ disregard for people like me, for the majority of society, is realised, and I want — indeed, need — to make that happen. Politics is all fun and games, but these are people’s lives, and there is no excuse. This is my life, and I will not stand for inequality, for disregard, for no future.
If you are able, please, share this post, share this story. Share your story, or the story of someone close to you, or someone you know, or the friend of a friend. Tell me, tell us, how this Conservative government has slowly but surely torn apart our country, putting cash over compassion, putting the prosperity of the few over the futures of the rest. Tell them what they have done — show them.
We can’t let the next five years be a continuation of the last ten. Speak out for change.