Disabled single parent - who cares?

PUBLISHED: 12:59 22 September 2006 | UPDATED: 22:15 28 May 2010

ON New Year s Day this year, I unexpectedly became a disabled single mother. That was according to the Benefits Agency. Outside benefit world, the facts were more mundane. My mother had struggled for years to look after my younger siblings despite her chr

ON New Year's Day this year, I unexpectedly became a disabled single mother. That was according to the Benefits Agency.

Outside benefit world, the facts were more mundane. My mother had struggled for years to look after my younger siblings despite her chronic illness, and last year she suddenly got worse. She needed constant care, and was in such a bad state that we came to the difficult conclusion that my youngest sister Kate, who was only 11, would be better off living somewhere else.

Given the sacrifices the rest of my family were making, I decided to offer to have her live with me.

Until then, my one-bedroom flat had been an oasis of single, boudoir living. My disability means I have to spend most of my time lying down, so I'd arranged my flat around that. It was perfectly organised so that in bad weeks I could camp in bed with my books, videos and laptop within easy reach, and in good ones I could swap my floral bedspread for tiger print, and open up my flat for all night revelry.

I now had to convert this place into a family home for three. Our other sister, who was caring for our mother during the day, would be joining Kate and I in the chaos. Three people living in two small rooms was ambitious. But within two weeks we'd turned my lovely room into a dormitory for two, and made the little room into a dual-purpose bedroom for me and an adult sitting-room for the evenings, when Kate would be in bed.

We managed to live like that for nearly 10 months, and it was the most intense, extraordinary time.

From the beginning I made the commitment that if my mother didn't get better I would take responsibility for Kate long term.

- You can read a longer version of this article on our websites, www.cambstimes.co.uk or www.wisbechstandard. co.uk

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