Going on a bear hunt

Pudsey, Golf Balls and how accepting charity as one of those children in need made me feel.


Since Children in Need began, disabled people have embarked on a yearly bear hunt.

What is it that makes some disabled people hate it so much that they light bonfires adorned with Pudsey bears to mark the occasion?  

Of course the charity is not just about disabled children – but children who are in need for many reasons both in the UK and elsewhere. However, it is the disability related elements that have caused great concern and protestors are rearing their heads again in times when children’s services are being slashed in government cuts.

Since Children in Need began, disabled people have embarked on a yearly bear hunt.

What is it that makes some disabled people hate it so much that they light bonfires adorned with Pudsey bears to mark the occasion?  

Of course the charity is not just about disabled children – but children who are in need for many reasons both in the UK and elsewhere. However, it is the disability related elements that have caused great concern and protestors are rearing their heads again in times when children’s services are being slashed in government cuts.

Are charity events like this actually causing harm by the way they portray disabled children? Is it right to use pitying ‘pull at your heart strings’ pledge commercials? Certainly in the early days the life of a disabled child was shown as tragic, sorrowful and full of pain and sickness to get people to donate more money. (Think sad looking child with no hair, tube fed, cute dress, immobile against a background of slow, tear jerking music).

Then there is another angle. Think about a child who needs a wheelchair to get around or communication equipment – incredibly important for their development and overall independence. Yet many children are dependent, immobile or unable to have a voice because they can’t get the equipment.

Is Children in Need a way of using the kindness of people to support services and equipment that our underfunded NHS and social care services should be providing for EVERY child?

People won’t pay increased taxes so that more money can go into vital services – yet they give to charity so that a few lucky children might get support whilst the rest go without. I am not against supporting a charity – but that shouldn’t be the only way a child or family (or adult) can get support.

Read about a different perspective on Children in Need

Some disabled people will be campaigning today on Twitter and Facebook via the #CIN hashtag. Hear them out before you decide if you want to take part.

Here are some links to articles that relate to how disabled people feel about Children in Need and similar concepts.

• Transcript from Able Radio – Why hate Pudsey (2011)
Confessions of a Pudsey Kid (2009) – hear from Crimson Crip about being one of those children in need and the media portrayal of disabled people.
• Guardian (2006) – Pudsey’s time is up
• Disability Now – Don’t just grin and bear it – a disabled activists perspective

How accepting charity has made me feel.

I was about 12 before I got my first electric wheelchair. Before then I sat in a bright blue adult pram that people pushed if I needed to move outside the house. It was un-comfy, humiliating and I had no control over where I went or where I was parked. An application for an electric wheelchair was made to the local Golf Club who had been raising money to buy wheelchairs for disabled children.

One night we were invited to attend an evening where we would be awarded these ‘gifts’ by a sports personality. We had to sit in our chairs and pose for the obligatory ‘ thank you for changing my life’ photo that would feature in the next charity fundraiser and appear on the club house wall of good deeds. I felt like some kind of dog in a parade as we were posed in different places, congratulated and smiled on probably by some mayor or councillor. It was exciting yet at the same time I appreciated how a monkey might feel being gawped at in a zoo. I didn’t care much for all the attention and felt a bit like a performing dog but with less tricks. I couldn’t even steer it straight. Still, I had to go through the ordeal to get a chair so I smiled and pretended to enjoy it.

golf

I was hugely grateful for my first set of wheels – but not the way I had to go cap in hand and beg for it in the first place and go through the whole presentation thing.

No one asked us, the children in need, how we felt about this. We were just expected to smile a lot and travel round forever after promoting their golf course with the giant sticker they had welded onto the back of our chairs. We also had to put up with a golf ball for a joystick (yes a real ball with a hole in it [see picture] ). I felt used and abused as a piece of free advertising. I might have been young but I wasn’t stupid.

I wanted to hit the countless number of strangers who stopped me in the street to ask ‘oh is that a real golf ball?’.

I really hope things have moved on …

 

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One thought on “Going on a bear hunt

  1. I had never really thought about the child perspective of receiving, you assume their pleasure at having the whelchair/equipment/help without realising the yearning for others to receive their constant gratitude.

    No one likes taxes, is it because they are enforced, there is no corrolation between taxes taken and goods/services received … where as with charity the giver decides how much and when and for what, it is not faceless giving.

    Thought provoking – I ALWAYS detest the ads on CIN they are so engineered and false – gets my goat. I make no apology for being charity fatigued.

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