This post is not wedding related. And truth be known, I feel guilty about posting it at a time when cuts and reforms are playing merry hell with the lives of so many of my disabled friends.
I appear to have won at Social Services, and now I don't know what to do with my good fortune.
As part of Steve going back to work, I've been reassessed. Steve's new job involves a much longer commute as well as regular trips further afield, and that in turn means that there's less expectation on him to provide my care.
This is going to get complicated so first I have to explain about Direct Payments.
Direct Payments are paid into a bank account in my name and I am the only person who can access that account and distribute the money. All contracts are between me and the PAs or agencies who I choose to employ. This gives me control over my care. To give a simple example, I could decide to skip showering on a Thursday in order to 'carry over' enough time for a long bubble-bath on Friday.
What I can't do is take the money and spend it all on sweeties and computer games. Social Services closely monitor the account to make sure that it is only spent on items and services approved in my Care Plan. I can't invest it, and it doesn't even count as my money on my tax return. And once it's gone, it's gone - if I have long bubble baths every day for a fortnight and then realise there's no money left in the account to pay the agency for the rest of the month, that's entirely my problem and my responsibility.
Supposedly this reduces the admin costs for Social Services as they are no longer the first point of contact and no longer have to manage the carers or negotiate with agencies. They identify needs and then supply the money. Choosing the best way to spend the money to meet those needs is no longer anything they have to worry about.
So I've been identified as needing 45 minutes of help with personal care each weekday. I have some interviews (sales pitches) with agencies this week and hopefully something will be set up soon. Once it's set up, there's also scope for us to call in an agency carer should I need one when Steve's away from home for longer periods - even if we had to add the extra money privately, the 'account' would be in place.
They've also changed my social care. Previously I got money for the stated purpose of employing a PA for three hours a week to help me do "out and about" things I needed help with. This was about £30 per week - most of it for the wages of the PA, the rest to cover specified necessities like Employer's Liability Insurance, placing job adverts when I need to hire a new PA, that kind of thing.
Now, my assessment says I am at risk of social isolation (the internet doesn't count, who knew) and therefore eligible for two days per week of "daytime opportunities", but thankfully identifies that it would be inappropriate to send me to a daycare centre for two days per week. So what Social Services are doing, is taking the money they would spend on my daycare centre place, and giving it to me as a Direct Payment. It is rather more than £30.
We've identified that I will continue to employ my PA for three hours each week as a baseline, but after that, it's looking a bit blank, because I simply can't think of much to do.
This is apparently an indicator that I have already become used to social exclusion.
I don't just have to use it on PA wages. For instance I asked if I could use it for taxi fares to go to a knitting group or to a friend's house, situations where I don't need a PA sitting right there with me for two hours, but I need someone to make sure I get safely there and back. Apparently I can, as long as I get a receipt, and keep a log of the purpose of the journey (which must be 'social').
The best and worst of this system is that there's no list of approved uses. There couldn't be, because there's so many different things a person could do. I have to think of something I'd like to do, and then find out how much it costs, and then they'll tell me whether I can use my Direct Payments account for all, none, or some of those costs.
It's also a bit experimental. My Independent Living advisor tells me I'm the only person on her caseload so far with this setup. So no clues from that direction.
Ideas, anybody? So far all I've got is an Action Point of going to the library on Wednesday to see what clubs and groups and things are running in the area.