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Spoken word poetry, ‘Risk Assessment: High’ by Shamini Sriskandarajah

Shamini entered Poetry for Good, a national competition that ran in the Spring of 2021. Her piece ‘Risk Assessment: High’ was highly commended in the spoken word category. Many siblings will relate to this powerful and articulate poem, that highlights the unseen work of sibling carers during the pandemic.

“I entered this competition because I thought it was a chance to shed light on the unseen work of family carers. In our case, this includes a lot of speedy cleaning – my sister frequently spits or throws food on the floor but doesn’t like the sound of the vacuum cleaner because of her autism. We often use a dustpan and brush to clean carpets because it’s quieter, but it’s harder work! And I work fast to vacuum clean when she’s in the shower or very occasionally when she’s out. It’s exhausting.

There is little to no support for family carers whose work is seen as voluntary rather than essential, there are no formal risk assessments; we just get on with what each day and night throws at us as though we are machines. I also wanted to highlight the treatment of family carers by some professionals and care home providers, especially in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

I wrote this poem especially for this competition. I had just been sent the risk assessment from my sister’s care home (where she lived from November to April) for me to be the nominated indoor visitor – until the end of March, they’d had a blanket ban on visitors because of Covid-19. The words of the risk assessment made it sound as though I were an untrustworthy stranger. The fact that my one-hour visit – in which I would have first tested negative in front of staff, worn a face mask and cleaned my hands – was classified as a “High” risk level was particularly cutting. The irony being that my sister contracted Covid-19 from staff in January and was attacked in her care home bedroom in April, leading rather bizarrely to her eviction.

In fact, this video was recorded just before I visited her after finding out about the attack, which is why I look so miserable.

She was at great risk in the care home. I’m glad she’s back with her family now and we’re working hard to keep her safe, well and happy. But as this poem shows, there are risks every day. So far, it’s nearly two months since she came home, but we’ve had no respite and no help with getting her to recover from her trauma.”

Would you like to help other siblings by sharing your own story? Please get in touch.