Open letter to a former disability employment service provider

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Naomi Fryers explains why she broke up with her service provider and how her life has been on an upward trajectory ever since. 

Dear Disability Service Provider (staff and management alike),

You came into my life like a light of hope on the horizon when I was vulnerable. Following the birth of my first son, I had struggled with post-natal depression and anxiety. I also needed work. When I first heard of your services, they sounded too good to be true. You were there to help supplement my income while I found my feet in new employment. It was like a dream and a sure fire recipe for success.

Well, from what I've discovered over the past twelve months, if things seem to be "too good to be true" they often come with pit falls. And wow, did you have pit falls. You came at an expense – financial and emotional – and moreover you were pretty bloody inconvenient in terms of time. 

I was optimistic at first, as you "negotiated" with employers on my behalf. Something I thought would be better left to the professionals was anything but. You proclaimed details of my mental illness to every employer, because apparently in the six billion page document I signed earlier, I had consented to this. The words "psychosis" must have gleamed off the page like a mac truck's headlights making each and every employer shit their pants, for after weeks of trying I'd never had so little success in receiving a call-back. I told you I wanted to write for a living and you wore me down, instructing me to "start menial" and lower my expectations.

Finally a call up and it was administration work in a factory. Well, that's something, I thought, and it sure was "something". 

I fumbled my way through an interview with an extremely inappropriate employer who asked me a series of equally inappropriate questions. Upon raising these concerns with you the response I was met with was that the employer needed up-skilling in conducting interviews and that I shouldn't worry. Shouldn't worry? I had been forced under duress to disclaim to a stranger that I was a mother of a baby, who was thirty, a heavy smoker and had no other employment prospects. Aforementioned unsuitable job was, not-so-surprisingly, vacant and you told me to take it. Out of sheer desperation, I did. Then you acted surprised when I was promptly sacked after a fortnight (because I began my trial as a casual) for taking carer's leave to tend to my sick baby.

Following this experience – combined with the fact that I had no money for petrol to attend your fruitless sessions three times a week – I decided it for the best that we part ways. You had shaken my confidence. Having formed a bond over this period – it must have been your maniacal grip of tyranny over me and my life – I thought I’d let you down slowly. But, oh, were you only too glad to see the back of little old “unreliable” me. You watched me walk out the door shockingly clutching in my (now diluted) mind, your referral for apple picking in the country.

Well, dear Disability Service Provider, now that I’m free and liberated from your clutches, I have a few things to inform you.

The first is that I never did take up your completely bloody inappropriate apple picking suggestion. (No offense to the apple pickers – you do a great job – but I’ve had physical complaints as well as mental!)

I decided to wing it and do the leg work by myself. I am now gainfully employed and have three contracts for freelance writing work that I undertake part-time. I used the skills – that you never bothered to investigate whether I had or not – to make it without you. I am gleefully happy and I undertake tasks from home while my baby is asleep, without missing deadlines. My bosses have never asked me my age or whether, or not, I am a smoker.

Now, that you’re clear on where I am today, here is some pretty sweet advice for you so called professionals — for nothing! No catches!

Firstly, if you set people up to fail, they undoubtedly will.

Secondly, you should not treat people with disabilities as though they are second rate citizens because they’ve had a stroke of hard luck. We are just as capable as you are — if not more competent in terms of diversity awareness.

Thirdly, every time you tell someone to “start menial” you are inhibiting their abilities, not to mention breaking their spirit.

Finally, now that I’m a freelance journalist and writer, who is quite capable of writing an exposé on your crappy service, let me promise you this: at any and every opportunity I am given from this day on, I will undermine your flawed, failure of a system. And when the disability revolution comes in Australia, believe you me, you’ll be first against the wall.


Naomi Fryers

(Freelance writer and journalist, Melbourne, Australia)

P.S. You’re dead to me.

You can follow Naomi on Twitter @Fluro_Unicorn.

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