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FROM THE CHAMBER: Living with disability as a Councillor

Disabled toilet
Picture: Csaba Nagy from Pixabay
Cllr David Hare
Cllr David Hare

By Cllr David Hare

Disability, a word that is a lifesaver for some, as they access the help they need and deserve.  But what does being a Councillor with a hidden disability mean, how does it impact on me?  

Perhaps I have two disabilities as after two very nasty accidents I fall over as my ankle gives way, unannounced, about twice a month.  But I’ve learnt to fall and roll, sometimes I gorge my hands (or even once my moustache!), I have hit my head on a front door delivering FOCUS (poor householder opens his door to me with blood dripping from my forehead, kneeling on the ground)

Generally, from my falling over I have learnt how understanding and kind people are.  Falling over on the embankment in London a café owner shutting up got a chair back out especially for me, gave me a drink.  Locally I remember falling over (again delivering FOCUS) and a householder leaning out of her bedroom to ask if I was OK, people do care? 

But I suppose that is a seen problem, my unseen problem also aches me every day, both literally and emotionally. 

Twenty years ago I had to have my large intestine removed due to cancer.  Six months later I had another operation to make a new ‘large intestine’ from some of my small intestine.  Often I wish I had never had that operation and I still had a continence bag, but that would bring other problems.  

So, with my condition I need to sit on the toilet at least 15 times a day, that can go up to over 24 but it’s never less than 15 times.  The pain and soreness is constant, sometimes getting very bad, sometimes excruciating as blood emerges, always nagging with pain.

At night if I am woken three times when I should be asleep that is average, I have not had a completely undisturbed night since the operation.  Being woken once can be counted on one hand in 20 years. 

The morning is usually not too bad, I can usually last at least 90 minutes between visits to the smallest room in the house, it is afternoon and evening that it gets worse.

As Mayor of Earley I had to be excused in the second Full Council meeting I chaired, I now wear a nappy to those meetings I chair as having to leave was, to me, so embarrassing.  I know no-one knows and people would understand if they did know, but this still impacts on my self-esteem. 

If attending a ‘live’ meeting that I’m not chairing I try to ensure the Chair knows why I might leave the meeting unannounced at some time (it has been easier by video). 

I often ache and squirm trying not to leave a meeting, but if I must leave I have to.  Sometimes when I know I have an item on the agenda where I am going to speak I make sure I go to the toilet before that agenda item.  This usually works although I can still get hit by the painful waves of discomfort as I speak.

I have had people not understand why I persevere, why I continue putting myself in this position, out there, working with you.  I know there are others who could do my job.   But I want to be involved, I find it hard to sit and watch.

My aim is to take Adult Services be as good as the economics we work with will allow.  I know in the Director of Adult Services, Matt Pope, we have someone with the same expectation. 

I know that OPTALIS is working well now, with David Birch in charge they are doing what WBC want them to do, working together to serve the people of Wokingham.

As a trained former Social Worker I have some understand where things must progress and it’s great meeting the senior managers at OPTALIS, encouraging each other to get better, expecting more from the services. 

My speciality was work with people diagnosed with Autism and it’s thrilling being on the Autism Strategy working party. 

Yes, my insides are, quite literally always a pain.  In the first accident, after being knocked off my motorbike and left for dead I was only saved by a passing GP (a family friend) who resuscitated me, but then told my parents that he didn’t know if he had done the right thing as I lay unconscious in hospital for over two weeks. 

When my wife, Nicola, (a GP) saw my X-ray in the second accident she could not believe I was still walking.  

If I had had cancer rather than my large intestine removed my life chances would be very slim.  

I want to give what I can, to learn from others, to work with others, representing them if they want, supporting and enabling them if they want  me to.   

I am interested in always working with people for the best outcomes that can be provided, working with those who need to use the Wokingham Adult Care services or just listening to, valuing and encouraging people, whoever they are.

 Councillor David Hare is the Lib Dem lead for Adult Services and Wellbeing and councillor for Hawkedon ward of Wokingham Borough Council

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