Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Witty Title Goes Here

So, I've been being very organised about this whole DLA business. I phoned the Benefit Enquiry Line to get a form sent to me that would be date-stamped so that my claim, if successful, would be backdated. I scoured the members area of Benefits and Work and saved a copy of the guidelines to filling in the adult DLA form on physical health grounds. I went through that document and made a Notepad file with my notes based on what would be most relevant for me. Next, I downloaded a copy of the new form (it's different to the forms I filled in before. There's only one of it and it's a lot more reminiscent of the IB50). Then I started slowly working on one question at a time, typing my answers into another notepad file.

A number of people who know me in real life were lovely enough to say they would write statements for me, detailing their experiences of my care and mobility needs, if I told them what was needed. So I whipped up yet another notepad file, this one being a rough guide to the sort of information the DLA people are looking for.

Today, the actual forms arrived. There are 63 questions. Unfortunately that's not a useful number. "Date of birth" is one question. "National Insurance number" is one question. However, on the other side of the coin, "Would you have difficulty preparing and cooking a main meal for yourself? Is there anything you want to tell us about the difficulty you would have planning, preparing and cooking a main meal?" is all one question.

Having got to a point in my notepad file-o-answers where I was feeling really useless and like I wanted to throw my laptop across the room (question 32, if anyone's keeping track), I decided to start working on the form. After all, my notepad files are a bit pointless if the actual form remains blank.

And, ladies and gentlemen, I have made my first mistake. Question 6. "Address where you live", I got my postcode wrong.

I am wondering whether to make a note of this in the Additional Information.


Sorry this post is hardly original.

So yes, at 1am on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning depending on how you look at it, there was an earthquake in the UK.

For me and Steve, in the Midlands, it was enough to wake us up, with the bed shaking and the wardrobe doors rattling, but there's no actual damage.

I am not proud of my reaction, but I suppose it should be documented here...
- I woke up.
- Steve woke up.
- bit of sleepy "WTF?"
- shaking stops.
- Steve decides to go downstairs to check things over, make sure there's no disturbing smells of gas or anything.
- I tell Steve I love him very much. Thought process: There may be a gas leak or aliens might be invading or something and we might all die a fiery death. I wouldn't want him to die without definitely knowing. I wouldn't want to die without having told him. But I'm warm and cosy and I'm stuffed if I'm getting out of this bed. If I die, I die comfy.

Let's hear it for priorities!

In other news, my DLA form has arrived. I would be working on it right now, but I had a broken night's sleep and feel like I've been scraped off the pavement with a pressure-washer.

But, a big big thank you to everyone, on and offline, who has offered to help. You are all very ace.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Giving in

I'm going to attempt to claim DLA again. Yes, I know. Don't ask.

I've been going through the members' resources at Benefits and Work and it looks like where I'm really going to fall down is that I have not maintained a raft of professionals to back me up.

My condition cannot be 'cured', the best the medical profession can do for me is help me to control my symptoms.

The first year of my illness, I had any amount of assessments and tests, physical, neurological, psychiatric, you name it, and I was tried on all sorts of different medications and treatments (within the constraints of NHS provision) until we found the optimum combination for controlling my symptoms - not perfect by a long way, but the best we could do.

After which, my medical treatment pretty much dwindled to a repeat prescription every month, and the occasional GP appointment if something acute happened. There was no point remaining on the books for the Pain Clinic or the neurologist or the butcher, baker or candle-stick maker, knackering myself out by hiking off to appointments at hospitals ten or twenty miles away. They had nothing further to offer me.

Wrong. There was a point. They could have provided extra confirmation about my condition and my limitations to the DWP. As it is, the DWP have a computer, and if the computer sees that I am only treated by my GP, and that I've only had a few appointments with my GP in the last 12 months... then it will calculate that there isn't much wrong with me and send me on my way. There are no prizes for attempting to "not be a burden on the NHS" and so on. That's not playing the game properly, it seems.

I have to try and convince the humans that the computers have it wrong on this one.

I'm going to be working on this for a while, blogging might become minimised.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Demand A Recount

Friday: felt ok. Came back from work a bit sore, a bit tired, a bit glad it was the weekend, but nothing out of my ordinary.


Saturday: spent it in bed. A couple of hours propped up on pillows with the lappie, but mostly, snoozing.

Sunday: a bit better than Saturday, but still confined to the upstairs floor of the house. In the evening, a sudden downturn.

Monday: Almost back to my normal. I even fixed my own breakfast.

REALISATION: I'll be going to work today. I feel ripped off of my weekend. There should be rules about having a non-weekend due to sickness.

DISCLAIMER: Yes, I'm complaining about going to work. Rest assured that if I feel awful again later today, or tomorrow, and I have to call in sick, I'll probably complain about NOT going to work.

I bet you're grouchy too when you're this sore.

I will try and post something a bit more thoughtful over the next week.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Finished Item: Birthday Sock

Sock on a biscuit jar
Originally uploaded by girl_of_bats
Of course, socks traditionally come in pairs, and I have cast on Birthday Sock 2, but the way things are at the moment, even the completion of One Sock is enough to warrant celebratory feelings.

It's... not a good time. Several things, some bloggable, some not, are causing a certain amount of stress right now. A small taster...

I suspect that tomorrow I have to call the Tax Credits people and/or Royal Mail because of a problem with the paperwork I sent by Recorded Signed For post last week not being flagged as 'delivered' yet. This is going to be made more difficult by me being rather iller than usual at the moment. I suspect I have to make a doctor's appointment as it's getting to the "beyond a joke" point - without Steve, I would be well and truly stuffed by now. I'm worried that even with Steve's help I might end up having to take time off work if my health doesn't pick up again sharpish. I have to sort out some more stuff with the DWP as well.

You get the picture.

I also have to write up a feedback report for Access to Work. Well, I don't have to, which is why I haven't done it yet. But I've been asked to, and I feel like I should.

I need to get some serious praise in for my current adviser, who has been fabulous and got all sorts of things (the taxis, the squishing machine) sorted out pretty much next-day, and I want to say nice things about the scheme in general.

But I also really need to let them know about the problems I have encountered with the system, like the trouble I had getting onto the scheme, the attempts to make One Size Fit All, the catch-22 of not being able to apply for the scheme until you have a definite job offer, but the difficulty of negotiating for a job offer without knowing whether you're likely to get help from the scheme or not.

Actually, if anyone can think of some good phrases I could use, please do put them in the comments, because at the moment I'm having trouble properly saying things I want to say without (a) it coming out wrong and everyone looking confused, (b) half of it coming out before my brain goes off at a tangent and I fail to communicate my original point leaving everyone looking confused, or (c) it coming out right, but far too abrupt/rude/blunt and leaving everyone looking distinctly pissed off. I need all the help I can get.

The sock came out well though.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pancakes, Mary-style

You will need:

Preferred toppings: I like sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice.

long-suffering assistant (Evilstevie)

Reassure long-suffering assistant that the washing up won't need doing before this meal. Measure out about six ounces of flour and dump it into a bowl. Add a little pinch of salt. Make a little hollow in the middle of the flour, and crack two eggs into it.

Take two phone calls from people whose calls you consider "important". Completely lose track of what you are doing. Make sure the long-suffering assistant has no idea how long you are going to be on the phone and thus remains unsure what sort of thing he should be doing to amuse himself.

Phone calls dealt with, attempt to whisk the eggs and flour.

It will take just under ten seconds for you to realise that this was an extremely bad idea and that the eggs and flour should in fact be mixed by hand with a fork or spoon. You may wish to practice some inventive swearwords for this stage.

Try to improve this situation by adding a little bit of milk. Realise you are getting nowhere fast. Use a teaspoon to scrape the worst of the mess off the whisk and add about a quarter of a pint of milk. Bash the not-turned-on whisk against the milk and mess until it's a little bit more like thick batter. Breathe sigh of relief that things are back on track.

Retrieve long-suffering assistant from behind the doorframe, where he has been trying to listen in to make sure you are not in difficulties, while not getting in the way of batter-related WRATH.

Add a smidge and a gnat's of milk, until the whisk moves through the batter without lumpiness or stickiness. Whisk it until your arm gets tired, then stop and have a nice sit-down while the mixture settles.

After your sit-down, add another quarter of a pint of milk and whisk again (serious note: letting it settle before adding the second half of the milk is a genuine tip that I think makes the pancakes better). It'll be easier now the mixture is thinner. Tell long-suffering assistant that it is time to fish out the frying pan.

Do NOT decapitate long-suffering assistant for pointing out that your preferred pancake-flippy tool needs washing up. This would make it more difficult for him to actually do the washing up.

Heat a little oil in the pan over a medium heat. Using the ladle, pour some batter into the pan and swirl it a little to spread it thinly and evenly over the surface of the pan.

Insist that only boring people make round pancakes.

When pancake is lightly browned on one side, flip it over with the now-clean pancake-flippy tool. Watch as large bubbles form in your pancake. Realise you used self-raising flour. Insist this makes them "light and airy" while smacking the bubbles into submission with the flippy tool.

Slip pancake onto plate. Offer flippy tool and in-front-of-hob perching stool to long-suffering assistant "so you can make your ones whatever shape you want."

Add enough sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice to your own freshly cooked pancake so that none of the above matters any more.

Repeat these five stages until there is no remaining batter.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Let It Snow

... but, if it's going to snow, could it at least have the courtesy to do it properly?

Like many other people with chronic illnesses, my condition is affected by the weather. Snow in particular poses a problem, the combination of low pressure and low temperature giving me a double whammy of Bad.

So when we had an hour or so of snowfall in the late afternoon/early evening of Friday, I was practically a human barometer. I started work feeling my normal self, but at about 4pm I started feeling rotten and shortly after 5pm I was curled up on the floor flinching from the light and trying not to be sick.

Thing is. I would never go so far as to wish it didn't snow. Snow is fun for lots of people and it looks pretty, too. Even if you don't want to go out in it at all, there's a lot of satisfaction to be had in curling up on the sofa with a thick jumper, a hot water bottle and a steaming mug of hot chocolate, gazing out of the window and thinking "ooh, I'm glad I'm not out in that."

That's not what we got on Friday though. We just got big fluffy flakes that melted almost as soon as they'd landed. What's the point in that? Proper snow or none at all, that's what I say. None of these half-measures.

In other news, it's been hard to miss the story about the investment banker David Freud who spent three weeks examining the UK welfare system and published a report which was "highly influential" on new reforms to the system. These reforms have been outlined by James Purnell, a man who has been Work and Pensions secretary for all of a week. Perhaps the reforms are more substantially the work of the previous Work and Pensions secretary... one Mr Peter Hain, who left the position without giving notice, and only did the job part-time anyway, between his other occupations of being the Welsh secretary, and trying to persuade everyone that his failure to disclose donations (for his failed attempt to become deputy leader of the Labour Party) WAS due to incompetence, rather than wilful fraud.

Bearing those track-records in mind, it's hardly surprising that Mr Freud's report contains a disturbing amount of inaccurate information, as well as a certain amount of the 'I don't believe it so it can't possibly be true' philosophy (why is it so unthinkable that at any given point, 500,000 (about 2%) of the 25 million people under 35 in this country are incapacitated in some way?).

I don't want to bang on about this one today - most of my opinion on the demonisation of Incapacity Benefit claimants in the media and their use as a political football can be found in this post - but really, this guy is incredible. Let's just take one example:

"He told the Daily Telegraph it was "ludicrous" medical checks were carried out by a claimant's own GP," because "they're frightened of legal action."

Well, yes, it would be, if this were the case, which it isn't.

A claimant's own GP IS required to fill out a report on a claimant, on the basis that they are likely to be at the centre of a claimant's medical treatment. However, reports are also requested from: the claimant themselves; other medical professionals treating the claimant; and from the "person who knows the claimant best" which could be a carer or friend or relative. An independent medical professional employed by the DWP decides if all the various reports support each other, and quite often, the claimant is then required to travel to another town in order to attend an appointment with an independent DWP doctor who makes yet another report. The whole lot then passes to a panel of bureaucrats who make a decision on whether benefit should be awarded. I cannot spot anywhere in this process which allows for legal action to be taken against the GP unless they were to knowingly provide inaccurate medical information.

If the esteemed *anker has ANY evidence to back up his belief that there are 185,000 claimants working illegally, and a further 1.5 million claiming fraudulently, then he owes it to all of us to pass that information on to the National Benefit Fraud Hotline, either online or by calling 0800 854 440.

Simply making life even more difficult for people trying to cope with a long-term illness is not going to help anybody.

PS, I'm feeling physically rubbish, but in myself, I've perked up a lot in the last couple of days. Not quite as nauseatingly happy as I was a couple of weeks ago, but I'm working on it.