Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Access" to work

I had my appointment with the Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) at the Jobcentre yesterday. We spent about an hour talking about what I would like to do, what my limitations are, what help I want, and the various rules about work and Incapacity Benefit. So that's pretty much the same conversation I had with the IB adviser last week, except the DEA seemed to know a bit more about the IB/work rules, or maybe she just felt more inclined to show off her knowledge.

The upshot is that I've been referred (surprise!) to Remploy, who hopefully will get in contact soon. I remain unsure about exactly who they will refer me to what they will do for me.

Remploy or otherwise, the DEA thinks I should be eligible for an Access to Work grant for my transport, assuming I can get my doctor to confirm, in writing, that I do need the exact physical help that I am requesting.

I have registered at the local surgery, and I've had a kind of introductory appointment with the nurse, so that if I turn up because I'm oozing disturbingly, the system won't just throw up a blank - they have my height, weight, blood pressure, brief family history, that sort of thing. But I can't have a routine appointment with a doctor until my notes arrive from Lowestoft. This could take some weeks. When they arrive, the surgery will contact me and then I can make a routine appointment to see my named GP.

Then I get a ten-minute appointment slot to try and persuade said GP - who may or may not pay attention to my previous GP's notes, and whose standpoint on the veracity of my symptoms may well be unsympathetic - to write a letter saying "Mary can't actually walk very far at all and is unfit to drive". I'm trying not to think about that bit. Let's assume I'm successful.

This letter combined with the geographical fact of the house being some distance from the nearest bus route, should persuade the AtW gatekeepers that I am eligible for their scheme. After that I'm on my own until I have obtained a secure job offer to show them, and then the DEA will do the paperwork to apply for the grant for...

*curls up and sobs* Can someone tell me again why it is that I am doing this instead of simply being Steve's housewife?

Anyway. Once I have a GP's letter, I will finally be able to apply for jobs while feeling about 80% certain that when I begin a job I will be able to get to and from the workplace while remaining in profit.

Here's the rules:

1. If I do voluntary work for less than 16 hours a week, I must tell the Jobcentre, but it doesn't affect anything much - mostly it just covers my back if someone tries to report me for fraud saying "she works at [charity]!" I can get my expenses reimbursed by the voluntary-employer, but must not be paid for my work.

2. If I do paid work earning up to £20 a week, I must tell the Jobcentre, but I can keep the money and keep my benefit.

3. If I do paid work for less than 16 hours a week, earning up to about £80 a week, I must tell the Jobcentre, but I can keep the money and my benefit, for either 6 months or 12 months** depending on what my support status is deemed to be. After that time I must choose to (a) give up my benefit or (b) give up the job and not work again for a year.*

4. If I do paid work for more than 16 hours a week... well, that's all irrelevant really, there is not a snowball's chance in hell of me being able to do that any time in the forseeable future.

5. If I earn more than the aforementioned £80 a week... this is probably irrelevant too although I suppose it could happen. If it does, I'm simply telling the Jobcentre to stick it where the sun doesn't shine, as I wouldn't have a problem with taxi fares.

*Incapacity Benefit is about £80 a week. Wages for ten hours work at £5 an hour is £50 a week. So basically, I would have to decide whether to work my backside off for £50 a week plus my personal pride, or sacrifice my pride and sit on aforementioned backside for £80 a week**. What would you do?

**The idea of the time limit is that it forces encourages claimants to increase their hours to more than they can handle, sending them crashing back onto full-time benefit again more than 16 hours per week, and claim Working Tax Credits instead. Believe me when I say that the Tax Credits system is even more of a nightmare than the Jobcentre system, and that I would sooner work in the sex industry and live on the streets, than attempt to deal with Tax Credits again.

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