Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 - A Roundup

As usual, the year began with my birthday, which this year was accompanied by a visit from my mother. I also managed to get everything ready for hiring a personal assistant with Direct Payments and finally placed the advert. I found it very scary as I was desperate to be a "good" employer and worried that I'd get things wrong.

Meanwhile Steve and I found time to go on a number of weekend outings, including trips to the National Sea Life Centre, Birmingham and the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

There was snow in February and I suffered for it, and I'm sure I inflicted some of that suffering on to poor Steve. I had a another job interview but I started becoming very concerned about whether I was getting all these interviews because of my employability, or whether they were "sympathy" interviews thanks to the Two Ticks scheme.

In March my local council decided to withdraw the accessible Community Transport scheme which had until then provided the only affordable means of local travel to disabled residents like myself who are simultaneously unable to drive and unable to use public transport.

Luckily for me, I had just hired my PA and, although I had a little bit of difficulty getting my head around having an employee to help me (as opposed to struggling on insisting I can manage) we got on well and quickly developed a smoothly functional working relationship, allowing me to participate in the world a little bit more.

April saw a few changes to my working life, as my manager B asked me to take on a few more admin tasks (which meant a bit less of the more physical packing-CDs tasks). I really enjoyed learning the new things I was doing, but didn't want to tell anyone about it because it wasn't a "formal" change, and the main part of my job was still dealing with the CDs. This informality turned out to not be a good thing.

I attempted to argue with the council about the loss of transport provision, but although a number of councillors acknowledged my arguments and promised to attempt to put forward the issues I had raised, nothing came of it. The entire budget has been allocated to over-65s in "rural areas", regardless of their mobility needs - a hale and hearty over-65 who is perfectly able to walk, cycle, drive a car or catch a bus gets help, an under-65 who can do none of these things gets no help.

Once again, May started with Blogging Against Disablism Day. I wrote a post about people who assume the right to make our life decisions for us, followed by a roundup of my favourite BADD posts from elsewhere in the blogosphere.

In June I was far too busy doing things to actually write about any of it. Steve finished working for a while and went off on his motorbike to the wilds of Scotland, although regrettably the "summer" weather meant that the beautiful camping holiday he had planned turned more into a series of hops between B&Bs and cafes where he could dry out a little and get a hot drink inside him. I, on the other hand, went off to Lowestoft to see Pip and the Boy for a week, and came back gloriously sunburnt despite lashings of high-factor sun cream. In fact my only regret about my holiday was that Pip and I could not have the marvellous roast dinner we'd been planning because it was simply too hot to eat proper meals, let alone cook them.

My beloved and trusty laptop finally gave up the ghost after more than three years of almost permanent use. I have a new one, but it runs on Vista (shudder), it's unstable as anything, and try as I might, I just can't love it.

Terror came in August, as the government revealed plans to axe certain "disability benefits" that are given to disabled people to enable us to meet the extra expenses that disability incurs, and instead give the money to Social Services to spend on our behalf.

I made another effort to get the council to consider reinstating some sort of transport provision for under-65s who cannot walk, drive, or use the buses - even if only for medical appointments - but again, while I was listened to and agreed with and notes were made by the councillor I spoke to, nothing has been put in place.

Despite this, it was a wonderful summer and Steve and I enjoyed many lazy weekends, often involving a cream tea in some local beauty spot. If it wasn't for the his'n'hers G1s you'd be forgiven for thinking we'd fallen into the 1950s. My friend Carie won several prizes at her Village Show, but my own culinary skills remain somewhat lacking.

In September my employment status started to become a bit shaky. My line manager B, who had been responsible for moving me to a more admin-centric role, left the company and suddenly I found myself being assigned much more physically demanding tasks by his replacement. I asked for a clarification of my job role and, if I was expected to do different tasks to the ones I was doing at the beginning of my employment, a new Access to Work assessment.

Meanwhile, I started on a second job for a friend of mine, a couple of hours here and there, working from home to top up my income a bit and improve my CV as well as help her out. Steve also went back to work after his "summer break".

October was when things fell apart. My PA informed me that by the end of the year she would no longer be able to work for me, and I got the forms through for my DLA renewal - all 40 pages of it. While attempting to get help with the forms, I got stuck on an outdoor lift which isn't a fun thing to do in October, and I really started feeling like I was drowning not waving...

And then to round the month off, my managers responded to my request for job role clarification and a new Access to Work assessment by telling me that if I couldn't do all the new tasks that I was expected to do, then I would have to start looking for alternative employment. I decided to quit and make it my decision rather than theirs.

Somehow I kept on top of things and managed to work my notice, complete my DLA form, and prepare my employer paperwork for my PA's departure. Once I was no longer at work things got a lot easier and I started seriously looking into setting up my own business. I ran into a lot of barriers because of the disability thing - not being able to "pop over" to Coventry for a day's informal workshop every so often meant that I was left to my own interpretation of online materials. There are a lot of helpful PDFs out there, especially on the HMRC website, to help someone trying to set up their own business. Unfortunately there's no way of telling which ones are the useful, relevant ones, and which ones don't apply to you... the worst day of this saw my phoning my mother's house and opening a conversation with "talk to me about something that isn't tax!!!!!"

My PA was off sick a lot and I found myself gradually going potty from being stuck indoors on my own all day. While waiting for a referral to a specialist "disability" business advisor (which wasn't all I'd hoped) I set to preparing all the Christmas details, which paid dividends as Steve and I were both struck down with Lurgy in the middle of the month and we never would have managed it as a last-minute job.

Christmas was lovely, with lots of gifts and food and relaxation and monkeys. However the Lurgy seems to have reasserted itself, so unless both Steve and myself have a dramatic improvement in the next few hours, our New Years celebrations are likely to consist of little more than being woken up by midnight fireworks and having a celebratory nose-blow.

Happy New Year to all my readers, and especially to all those who have left comments - you've made a real difference to my life.


cogidubnus said...

Happy New Year...I really do hope 2010 starts better for you than 2009 finished...

Maggie said...

Happy New Year!

I was very crashed for a few days after Xmas, so we haven't gone on our intended jaunt to the caravan for New Year. Instead John has bought a very natty boiler suit with knee pad pockets on the knees (strangely enough!), industrial strength rubber gloves, and disposable face masks in readiness to strip out the carpets, some of the skirting, and eventually (when it warms up a bit) all the insulation from the loft at the new house. Must do more blogging about all that, but promise I'll post a picture of John in his new clothes - mwaahahahahaha!

Hugs from Liverpool

Amy said...

What a year! Thank you for sharing so much of your life with us.

Wishing you and yours all the best in 2010!

Mary said...

Thanks everyone, and the same to all of you!