*Guest Post* Befriending or escort?

6 03 2012

I have a disability (cerebral palsy) that means I have trouble getting about on my own and I don’t get to meet people. I don’t have any family support nearby after my mam died so I rely on outside agencies to help me go places. One of the things I’ve been offered again recently is a befriending service which is where someone is paid to come and be my friend. I have for a long time refused. There is something wrong when a disabled person needs to have someone employed to be their friend don’t you think? I tried to talk with my social worker about this but she didn’t understand why I might be so upset at having a “befriender”, she didn’t understand why I felt someone being paid to be my friend wasn’t really my friend at all. She didn’t quite get the concept of not liking paying for friendship, because I don’t get these services for free. I get money to buy in care and they “offer” this service to their care package users as a “free service top up”. As far as social work are concerned a friend is a friend whether paid to be or not and I should be happy with that.

Why should I be happy with this? Non disabled people don’t have to pay for friends and those that do get frowned upon for using escorts. Why is it fine for disabled people to use escorts (of the non kinky kind)? I don’t think it is ok. I would like a situation where it was easy for me to make my own friends and to be able to see them regularly without the circus of getting me to where I would need to be. There used to be a day centre nearby but it was closed a few years ago even before the cuts. It was like babysitting for disabled people, somewhere for us to be left a few hours a day to stare at different walls or to do some boring activity as a group, clapping was the group leaders favourite activity. I am 23 years old, I want to live my life to the full and just now I feel like I’d be better of dead. I’m not saying I’m not grateful for the small opportunities I do get just that I want them designed to meet my specific needs. I want to go somewhere where I can meet like minded people, I don’t want to have to pay someone to be my friend. I don’t want a “friend” who clocks off at 4.30 without another thought for me. I would like someone I can chat to on the phone or on to hold my straw when we go for a coffee or who doesn’t mind having a conversation with a machine that sounds like a female stephen hawking. I would like a friend on a Sunday afternoon not just office hours. I would a friend whose main motivation for being there is me and the bits they like about me and not a pay packet at the end of the week. It does nothing positive for my self esteem knowing the only reason I am socialising is because someone needs to feed their family and not because I’m nice and they like me.

I know these services are invaluable and without such services I’d be stuck in my room 24 hours a day. I am worried about all the cuts to local services and care and how that will affect me. People my age are out in clubs and pubs having fun. I would like that same fun. Just because I am disabled doesn’t mean I don’t want to live like everyone else.

P.s. I know there are voluntary befrienders too but I hate feeling like a poor charity case and that someone is volunteering to be my friend because it makes them feel better about their own existence and not because I’m someone they’d have a drink with in the pub on a Friday night.

P.p.s I know I’m sounding like a miserable old moo but I needed to get that out of my system.

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