Glasgow’s Shame

I am a volunteer tutor in English for Speakers of other Languages – also known as ESOL- and supported brilliantly by Glasgow ESOL Forum. For the last three months I have been working with a young man who fled here a decade ago from persecution in his own country. Let’s call him Adam. I do not know his full story—it is not my role to uncover uncomfortable truths from his past. We are working on his future. But there is a lot I do know because, well, I can’t avoid it.

At some point after Adam arrived here, he was savagely attacked and sustained multiple injuries. This has resulted in him being seriously visually impaired, with hearing difficulties, has problems with speaking and is confined to a wheelchair. He also suffers from vertigo and, it appears, some brain damage. He is, to all intents and purposes, housebound. The ESOL Forum does not normally support volunteers to go to learners’ homes – too risky. However Adam receives two 2- hour sessions a week of support from the Glasgow Association for Mental Health (GAMH). It is during one of those sessions that I go to his flat and work with him on his English. Without GAMH he would not receive any support at all in English nor in a range of other aspects of his life with which he requires help – from ordering shopping online to help going to the polling station- which he did for the first time on 18 September.

I have just read that Glasgow City Council has voted to slash GAMH’s funding by 40% and I could cry. But this is Adam’s story and not mine.

Uneducated in his country of birth, Adam can speak and understand Farsi, but the only language he can read and write is English. He also lacks numeracy skills. However he is a very intelligent man and someone who wants to learn and is particularly keen to understand the building blocks of the English language through understanding its grammar and also get a grasp of how numbers work. I bought him an abacus and once I showed him how it worked, he exclaimed ‘genius!’. It is a struggle given his complex health problems and his disability but teaching him is not a chore but a joy. He has ambitions to improve his language and numeracy skills to the level where he can study further. He is fascinated by science and medicine- possibly because he has spent quite a lot of time in hospitals with doctors and health workers. He is also a philosopher and an observer of life in his beloved Scotland – even from his wheelchair in his living room. He recently told me:

‘I love to mix with people who are well educated and positive. Before I met the wrong people and I thought all people same. But they are different. Human life is very short and you must live with good people.’

By ‘good people’ he means me and the ESOL Forum, his carers who come in four times a day, his friends from the local church and above all the workers from GAMH who help him navigate through life.

I have no idea what impact this decision will have on Adam but what I am pretty sure about that it is unlikely he will receive the additional hours that his support worker has said he badly needs. Adam I know is not alone in requiring and valuing the support of GAMH. But he is the one I know about and his story is one which should shame anyone who believes that this wonderful charity should be cut.

This is not a decision taken by a UK agency. This is not another heartless squeeze on people with disabilities by Westminster. This is not a Scottish Government decision. This is an attack on the most vulnerable in our city taken by our own city council. These are not Adam’s ‘good people’.

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