Welsh Wallace's Campaign And The Welfare Reform Act

Welsh Wallace
Hello!  I want to lead your eyes towards a GoFundMe campaign by the blind artist Welsh Wallace.  That's not her real name, funnily enough, but when she shares her true identity online it makes it all the easier for people to verbally abuse her.

That's what a minority of confused, frightened, frustrated people do these days: they "call out" disabled people who they believe are fakers.  The government and The Daily Mail have done a scarily efficient job of demonising the disabled, these last few years.  By making benefit fraud seem a far bigger problem than it actually is - bigger than, for instance, bankers needing unimaginable sums of money to bail them out of the trouble they caused for themselves - and casting doubt on the genuine nature of sickness and disability claims, the Welfare Reform Act created a culture of suspicion, paranoia and blame, directed at the poor, the ill and the disabled.

Clearly, genuinely fraudulent benefit claims needed to be dealt with.  Yet to say that babies were thrown out with bathwater would be to grossly understate the case, given the horrendous consequences.  Many, many thousands of ill and disabled people have reportedly died as a result of having their benefits taken away, after being systematically 'assessed' by the government-appointed company ATOS.  The relative lack of uproar shocked me.  Don't get me wrong: plenty of people railed against the madness.  But on Twitter, I often felt I was seeing more people complain about other users employing manual RTs, for instance, than about this glorified social cull.  Thankfully, protest groups like writer/comedian Francesca Martinez's WOW Campaign have taken the government to task and continue to pressurise them to officially assess the Welfare Reform Act's horrific impact.  The United Nations are apparently also assessing potential human rights violations.

A 'conker bowl', designed and created by Welsh Wallace
Back to Welsh Wallace, then.  Through social media communication and phone conversations with her, I've seen her face the kind of adversity that would honestly have most of us curled up in a corner, gibbering.  She lost her sight a few years back as a result of head injuries and since then it's been one long struggle.  Authorities have placed every conceivable obstacle in her path, from benefit sanctions to the local council refusing to send bills out in braille.  She has suffered the most insanely ignorant online abuse from people who can't believe a blind person can create art, so therefore she must be faking.  She's had abuse in person too, and I wish I could tell you more about that.  I wish I could tell you many more things about Welsh Wallace, but unfortunately she'd kill me.  The latest obstacle she's faced, though, is cancer and subsequent operations.  I spoke to her after her initial diagnosis and have never heard someone facing such uncertainty, yet putting such a very brave face on it all.

Having emerged from hospital, she has a new lease of life and a new goal: she wants to get her online shop back up and running.  The shop through which she sells her amazing clay work.  The shop which she has sporadically had to close in the past, either because the verbal abuse became too much to take, or because her health faltered, or because she had to prioritise things like eating and paying bills, rather than buying clay.  Given that she's an intensely proud and stubborn individual, it's very pleasantly surprising that she is finally asking us for help in getting the shop back up and running on October 1.

Inside that conker bowl
The crowd-funding campaign page is here.  I would love it if you joined me in slinging some cash Welsh Wallace's way.  There are some very nice perks for pledgers.  If you can't afford to pledge but still want to help, then please share the campaign.  If the campaign has already ended when you read this, then check out the Grand Opening Facebook page for her shop.  This the first time Welsh Wallace has directly asked us for help, and I'd dearly love to see her get it.  Thanks!

UPDATE: Wallace's initial £350 target was met in 24 hours!  Her stretch goal now, if more funds are raised, will be to buy "a GPS guide that will allow me to walk outside without a guide giving me complete independence to go for a walk whenever I want without having to pre plan or save up to hire a guide."  See her campaign update # 3 here.

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