Categories
Guest posts

Guest post at CentralBylines

‘Britain’s ongoing relationship with racism’.

The UK is in the midst of a huge wave of denial by its people and its government. The racial disparities and abuse faced by BAME individuals is a topic all too many would like to avoid. Unfortunately, others do not have the privilege of ignoring this issue as it will not ignore them.

Go to CentralBylines to read the full article.

Categories
UK Politics

Why the UK needs to change its emotional support animal legislation

‘Emotional support animals – the Uk’s outdated discriminatory legislation’

The UK is plagued with inequalities, one important area overlooked by our current legislation is that of Emotional Support Animals (ESA). Before we get into this, let’s answer the question, what’s the different between a support animal and a service animal?

Support animals Vs. service animals

In the UK there is a legislative disparity between ‘support’ and ‘service’ animals, but why?

The most well-known service animal is likely, the ‘guide dog’. These animals provide invaluable support for people with visual impairments in the form of a 24/7, non-judgemental, four-legged companion that allows them to reclaim their independence.

Because of the training guide dogs undergo for their role they are viewed under the category of ‘service animals’, and are permitted to enter shops, restaurants, rented accommodation etc. Yet animals, including guide dogs, also offer tangible psychological benefits.

The Psychological benefits guide dogs can elicit can be explained in terms of the confidence and freedom that they provide to their owners. Yet, there is also an inherent ability to for animals to soothe and comfort individuals in distress, making them the ideal companions for those struggling with mental or emotional difficulties.

These animals come under many names but are generally known as Emotional Support Animals (ESA). Countless research investigations have shown the positive effect of ESAs in depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Yet, if you were to request permission to take an emotional support animal into your workplace or even your own rented accommodation you would almost certainly be refused entry.

Requesting an ESA at my university accommodation started off well with my landlord claiming they were ‘invested in the well-being of all tenants’ and recognised the tangible support ESAs offer. Yet within the same email my request was denied because legally they had no obligation to permit an ESA. Naturally, I questioned this decision. If they were so concerned with our well-being, why wait until they are legally obligated to allow an ESA when they could decide to allow them…

To this I was merely told ‘our position has not changed’.

This made me wonder, why is there such a distinction between animals that ultimately provide an improvement in people’s well-being? The answer, the UKs dodgy legislation…

Legislation

In the USA ESAs are recognised on similar, if not the same, level as service animals. Yet in the UK companies, landlords, and workplaces are more than free to turn disabled people with ESAs away if they wish to. The reason for this is…confusing.

The distinction between service animal and support animal is generally made on the basis of training. A guide dog is trained to provide support for people with visual impairments whereas emotional support animals – largely – undergo very little training.

The issue with this distinction is that it discriminates on the basis of needs. A guide dog acts as the eyes of an individual, which requires a great deal of training. The need of a person with emotional or mental health related difficulties arguably come much more naturally to these animals. A dog elicits a positive feeling in most people just by their very nature, they are of course known as ‘man/woman’s best friend’.

Yet because they are not trained for their role they are seen more as pets than as service animals in the UK. I take issue with this as the contribution of an ESA is not measurable in terms of training received and not comparable to those offered by a guide dog. These are distinctly different animal roles for distinctly different problems. The UKs inaction on this matter highlights its laissez-faire attitude to supporting those with mental illness and hidden disabilities.

Hidden disabilities

This oversight by UK legislation is a shining example of how hidden disabilities are not taken anywhere near as seriously as they should be. Change is long overdue yet when the issue is brought up it becomes a discussion of ‘whose disability is worse’.

Both experiences of people with physical and mental disabilities are deserving of respect and worthy of support. To compare them serves no purpose other than to juxtaposition one as lesser than the other. To denounce treatment options for one group because its method does not require training or tangible or physical benefits just as guide dogs do is absurd.

In the UK, if a person has a mental health condition for over a year it is classified as a disability. For anxiety you can be provided a Disabled Students Allowance (DSA). Yet, when it comes to support animals our legislation has absolutely no concern with the well-being missed out on by our out-of-date laws. Yet, it appears we are stuck in endless debate with the ill-informed, unwashed masses.

The ‘devil’s advocate’ people – what disability looks like

Many things we take for granted were once outlawed by outdated legislation. We look back and say ‘well that’s just how it was’. Yet when new changes are proposed they are almost always met with derision and criticism, regurgitating the line that if something is written into law then it must be morally and ethically correct.

With any proposed amendment of change to legislation there are always people happily playing devil’s advocate. The apparent need compare two different things on an axis that makes one appear absurd is tactic often used by traditionalists, ‘if we allow this, what will be next?’.

These people argue that ESAs are more like pets than service animals, and that the legal recognition for service animals should remain only for animals that support ‘truly’ disabled people. These are the same people that harass blue badge users for not ‘looking disabled enough’. These people feign concern for ‘truly’ disabled people to excuse their ill-informed policing of disabled people’s rights.

Despite only 8% of disabled people in the UK requiring a wheelchair, in the eyes of the devil’s advocate people, if you’re not in a wheelchair you’re not disabled. Through their outdated view of what disability looks like they see support options for non-wheelchair using disabled people not as levelling the playing field but as an unfair advantage. Such people have always been around, this does not mean we need to listen.

Closing thoughts

It’s time to listen to people who would benefit from this change in policy and work out a way for ESAs to be given the same rights as service animals and help defeat this mental health epidemic we face in the UK.

Have your say here: Make ESAs Legal UK.

Categories
Guest posts

Guest post at CentralBylines

Got the exciting news that another article has been published over at CentralBylines.

The article takes a hard look at the UK governments excuses and dodgy dealings in the past twelve months.

CentralBylines is part of the UK Bylines network and are actively seeking stories on local events. Please contact me if you’d like to get involved. Suggestions, ideas, and stories welcome!

Categories
Well-Being

Going back to normal – tips for social anxiety

For many of us the return to normality is an exciting prospect, but it also conjures up a mix of emotions. For many of us, lockdown has felt like an unending slog – nothing to do nothing to say.

The opportunity to go back to the pub, to wine and dine with our friends is an exciting prospect. But for many of us, while lockdown has been isolating and depressing, it has also offered us the opportunity to indulge the avoidance side of our anxiety.

Photo by Chris F on Pexels.com

For those with social anxiety there is a constant nagging desire to avoid situations that provoke our anxieties. Whether it be showing up to lectures, public speaking or something entirely different we always want to avoid the things that stress us out. Lockdown posed a unique situation in which we suddenly had all our triggers removed.

For a year now we’ve lived without the worries of our day to day life intruding as it used to. Yet now, with the UK opening back up many of us are facing a sudden and potentially uncomfortable reintroduction to life as it was before.

If you share this preoccupation with the anxiety of returning to life as we know it here are a few tips for if your anxieties makes an appearance.

1. Breathe

I always hate to see this ‘tip’, as it always seems like the most obvious thing. Mental health staff and resources love to say ‘take long deep breaths’ when you feel anxious. This may help. But what’s better is to focus on maintaining a full and relaxed cycle of breathing to reduce chances of anxiety taking hold.

2. Grounding techniques

If you feel your anxiety building up, try and engage in grounding techniques. Grounding refers to techniques you can use to distract yourself from your anxieties and prevent the cycle from reaching a full blown panic attack.

The details on grounding techniques can be found here. You can try apps for grounding or even name things you can see in the room. The point of these exercises are to show you that you can choose to divorce yourself from the wave of anxiety and focus on something else. Repeated use of these techniques can help ‘prove’ this to yourself and thus improve its effectiveness.

3. Tell a friend

If you’re going out with friends, talk to them about how you feel. If something in particular is worrying you about your plans, tell them if you can.

When I was anxious I would feel incredibly nauseous and developed a phobia of being sick in public. Naturally whenever I went somewhere it was the only thing on my mind, making the symptoms even worse.

Speaking to a friend made me relax, knowing they knew what was going on and that they understood if I needed to step outside or leave helped relieve my anxieties.

Which leads me onto the fourth tip.

4. Plan your escape route

It may sound dramatic, but often just knowing how to escape a stressful situation can make it more barrable.

When I felt anxious in lectures, I often got caught up in worries about how to leave without people noticing. This obsession of course led me straight to feeling anxious.

However, if you have a way of getting out of the situation that you have rationalised and know is safe, it can act as a comfort. I tried letting my lecturers know I may need to step out on occasions.

This can act as a comfort blanket, resulting in a reduction in overall anxiety.

5. Don’t go into situations expectant

In my experience, I often felt anxious when I went into a situation with high expectations and a high desire to control things.

In my head things ‘had’ to go to plan, i.e., I shouldn’t feel anxious and if I did that was the worst thing ever.

What’s more, I would go into situations telling myself I ‘had’ to be the most confident or sociable I could be, and if I didn’t live up to this I had failed.

The desire for control set me up to fail each time. Wanting to control everything and live up to my own standards made me hyper aware of how I wasn’t living up to these standards. Making me anxious about being anxious.

It’s better to be realistic. Socializing is not life or death. You can leave if you feel anxious, you do not need to live up to any standards – socializing is meant to be fun.

Paradoxical as it may sound, try to go into situations acceptant that things may not go to plan and they may go even better than if you try to make everything go perfectly to your pre-imagined idea of how it ‘should’ go.

Take it easy

Most importantly, try to enjoy this new freedom. Try not to be tough on yourself.

Rather than focusing on what you ‘should’ or ‘must’ do, try to think in terms of what you would like or prefer.

For more tips, look no further!

Categories
UK Politics

7 takeaways from UK Racial Inequality Report

For the purpose of clarity I will state right off the bat this article is an overview and response to Prof Johnathon Portes own response to the UKs Racial Inequality report better known as, the Sewell Commission.

The article by Portes was featured in The Byline Times and can be found here using the link below.

From here on is my humble summary of Portes’ article, providing you with the key issues he raises. Though, I strongly recommend reading the article for yourself as he is the true expert here.

1. The author..

Portes once worked as chief economist at the department of Work & Pensions. He currently holds a place as Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the School of Politics and Economics at King’s College London. So he knows a thing or two about policy, academia and putting together a research project.

2. Racial inequalities in the UK

Portes’ position is clear, the UK does have a considerable issue with institutionalised racism. Research he carried out as chief econimist at the dpmt for W&P showed a considerable racial bias against non-white appearing applicants to jobs. Just one of the many ways that the UK IS institutionally racist.

What’s more, nearly all research evidence since Portes’ investigation has found significantly poorer outcomes for racial/ethnic minority individuals.

From this body of evidence, the writing is on the wall when it comes to the UK’s racism.

3. Placating to the ill-informed masses

As Portes outlines the response to the report were…mixed. Right-wing mouthpiece Matthew Goodwin was outlined by Portes as ‘being left high and dry’ by writer of the report Samir Shah when he announced Britain’s institutions were racism free.

This comes as no surprise as the right have long awaited a report such as this to confirm what they always wanted to hear. What’s shocking, or at least amusing, is to see the very writers of the report quashing the assumptions that the bias and twisted report leads its readers to believe.

4. You can’t see much with your head buried in the sand

Portes calls out a number of dodgy and underhanded research techniques used by the report in its efforts to skew and twist the undesired truth.

Methodologically, the report breaks down poorer outcomes for racial/ethnic minority groups into ‘explained’ and ‘unexplained’ categories. The first, includes other grouping variables such as gender, socio economic background etc. The second puts these outcomes down as a mystery. Using this lens to view data, one cannot possibly find evidence for racism. As it skirts around the concept entirely.

Yet, as Portes outlines, one cannot just remove the word ‘racism’ from the report and remove all evidence of racial inequality within society and the data in question.

To get around this issue, the report used some dodgy statistics techniques. Anyone that has been taught statistics in the social sciences has been well versed on what to do and what not to do when it comes to ensuring data is not bias or misleading. Yet this report throws that rule book out of the window and uses any method it likes to erase the concept of racism.

As Portes states, using such techniques makes it impossible to find any evidence for racial inequality as by their own efforts all trace is removed, renamed or obscured.

5. Response from the experts

Portes is not alone in his outrage, those within and outside academia and research share his distain for the report.

Though it is important to acknowledge, and Portes makes a point of mentioning this, that there is a vast amount of experts condemning this report for it’s dodgy methods and even more dodgy morals.

6. Why is it so dodgy?

The sheer dodgyiness of the report is put down to an attempt to stem the unwanted tide of ‘woke’ voices in 2021. The uptake in so-called ‘wokeism’ is something the Torys need like they need a knife to the gut. The simplest solution of course is to remove objectivity and honesty from the equation and get reports written that support your position, ‘no there’s no problem here’.

7. My thoughts

From Portes critique it’s clear that when this report was undertaken the question was not ‘is Britain institutionally racist’, or ‘how institutionally racist is the UK?’. The question was, ‘how can we hide any trace of racism?’. This sweep-under-the-rug technique is straight out of the Tory handbook.

They removed the word racism from the equation and then claimed that no trace of racism could be found. What we need is a new report. A truly independent report. And what we need most of all is action!

Action to acknowledge and address the racial inequalities across the UK, the time for ignoring this issue is over.