Service User Voice: Internet can ease the pain

p10 13 December issueI know you may wish to call me Scrooge, but I still hate Christmas. I am not against anyone enjoying Christmas but for me personally it is a difficult and depressing time as I know it is for many disabled people and service users.

Christmas is a time where social care goes into meltdown as the needs of staff to have a good Christmas greatly outweighs the needs of service users. There is a need for compromise in this situation and once we talk about family, the bias is towards them. While in many ways I agree this is the way it should be, it still remains unfair to the service users who need care and assistance over Christmas.

New Year is even harder as people simply to not want to be working when Big Ben chimes in the New Year. If you ever manage to find staff to take you out for the celebrations, it costs you at least triple pay and you’re still made to feel guilty they have missed their family.

It is just very hard for many disabled people to experience a good new year due to staff issues.

This is the one big late night of the year that so many people seem to be excluded from.

I, however, have a personal solution to the loneliness and it is called Second Life. This is a virtual world of well over 10 million users and I am the owner of Wheelies, the world’s first virtual disability nightclub.

On 23 December Wheelies will have its Christmas party with live DJs and artists from all over the world covering a full 12 hours. For New Year, the club will have a 26-hour event to celebrate the occasion around the world. So while I may be stuck at home on my own, I still have the opportunity to spend New Year with friends I have met from all over the world.

However, this is not for everyone.

For people who do not have families or are unable or unwilling to play “happy families”, Christmas and New Year can remain a difficult time and this can be made worse by disability. Christmas is known as a cause of stress and depression and this raises issues for the social care sector, especially in terms of mental well-being. Christmas Day is the one day where it just seems wrong to be alone.

So is there an easy solution to Christmas? Maybe I should ask Santa.

Simon Stevens is chief executive, Enable Enterprises

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