Friday, September 16, 2011

Self Directed Payments Benefits and You

If through no fault of your own you find yourself in receipt of government welfare benefits, you'll very likely have developed an open-hand and open-mouthed attitude regarding the money you get. As a bird in the family nest you'll have begun your life by learning to open your beak and squawking loudly until your parents dropped food into it. To start with, they'd have done it because they felt compassion for your helpless plight, but as things progressed they'd have fed you, more to shut you up than anything. And as you opened your eyes and moved around your nest, you'd have elbow-winged your way ahead of your siblings to get to the front first, to squawk the loudest and open your beak the widest, in order to get as much as you can.

And if you're in the United Kingdom you may end up on one of the many disability-related benefits to make sure you didn't starve through inability to stretch your hand. For a long time, if you didn't get better, you'd have stayed there. And stayed and stayed and stayed, growing more stately than an overgrown cabbage in an open society which is nonetheless an institutional cabbage patch but with invisible walls and wardens and with locks and keys removed. But remember: Your progression from oversized flightless bird to woody vegetable was not sudden. As you rooted into your virtual institution, you became set in your ways; yet as your once mobile arms ossified and your neck became less easy to turn, your jaw and mouth would have remained fully mobile. In one way or another, food and caring services would have arrived for you.
Don't Turn into an Ent

Sometimes this would have been great, but on occasions you may not have liked the food and something about the caring would have seemed off-kilter, may not not have been liked, or even uncomfortable and things may have been a little painful for you. Worst of all, you may have found that you'd been pushed headlong into that nightmare of scenes — the personality clash. You simply could not stand the person who had been assigned to you, and very likely the feeling would be mutual. What they did for you would have been carried out grudgingly and with a bad grace. You'd have been left feeling helpless and tense. You'd have been asked to sign your helper's time sheet and she'd have left 15 minutes earlier than stated. You'd have signed, of course. It would have been worse for you if you hadn't.

Yet remember that you were left with a moving mouth and open jaw. You first were able to squawk, but you ended up able to speak. At some point you may have moaned and groaned about your lot, and when it came to money you'd have doubtless remonstrated at how it was being spent. "Well if I was put in charge of the way it's spent I certainly wouldn't use it like this" "I'd do this" "I'd do that" "I'd do any number of things".

Now then listen up. If you really know what you want to the line of receiving care services, and you can keep records (and keep up with keeping them) there is a chance that you may end up being able to do just that. Every county in the UK has its own method of achieving this, and some no doubt will be better funded than others. In the area where I live, Cambridgeshire East Anglia, Self-Directed Payments just might accomodate your needs and put you in charge of who you're going to have, and how and when it will be done.

Every case is different, so there is no way of being able to describe the overall process. All I can do is explain what happened with me.

It was suggested to me on the 29th April that there was something which may be of more interest to me than the Royal Wedding. A spider I'd just seen on a bunch of bananas purchased was disappearing into a dark crevice in the hand of fruits. Already I was more interested, and as I listened to my storyteller's narrative I found my interest had waxed to a tantalizing degree. I wanted to get on the phone straight away, but the people on the end of the Social Services line were going ga-ga over a Royal Kiss, and I wondered if their mood of sheer gullibility would last until Tuesday when the country returned from holiday.

This is briefly what happened to me and may well happen to you:

You'll call up, and after speaking to their friendly receptionist your brief details will be taken, and you'll be told that you'll get a call-back. Nothing will happen, and will continue to happen for quite a while. Ten to 15 days later you'll call again and remind them you're still there and again they'll offer to call you back. Another week, and you'll be calling to remind them again, only to be told "That's three times you've called us now. You won't get seen any quicker if you keep calling." You bite back your impulse to ask them what their definition of "keep calling" is and resign yourself to another wait. Nonetheless, you may well get a phone call that very afternoon from a lady (Let's call her Mesq'ita) who'll ask if you're up to a 45-minute interview over the phone and you agree.

Agree by all means, but have some water and an energy bar at hand to nibble. You'll need it, for Mesq'ita will then morph into a hybrid between Jack Russel and a Snapping Turtle. Her questions about your needs will snarl and snip. You'll have to to think fast and think deft. You may be tempted to play with some of her words and bundle them back at her in a slugging volleyball, but you'll find Mesq'ita's totally lacking in humour, and your tarball of sticky adjectives will be vapourised by her solvent-busting adverbial snaps.

Left defenceless for a moment, Mesq'ita cuts right in at me with a slick razor-thrust, and I am wounded. Without sufficient time to recover from her carbon tetrachloride squirt, I can only croak a reply that my head is spinning for a second and could I please be granted a moment's recovery time. "Do you fatigue easily?" was Mesq'ita's rejoinder here. I wondered if there was any young male in the land who could come through her fusillade unscathed and unfatigued, but I answered yes, by which time my breaths were coming in gasps, the room was spinning and hypoxia set in. Barney took over the phone, ¡bless him! and soon those two were snapping and hissing at one another down the line. Not long after that he finished, telling me that she would return if need be.

2nd Column Shows refusal
The following morning the phone went again. It was taken by Barney who said, "One moment, I'll see if he's available. Who shall I say is calling, please?" whispering "It's someone called Mesq'ita and she'd like a word with you". My body went stiff into rigid spasm again and I lay myself on the verbal altar, waiting for her to finish me off, but to my astonishment the claws were fully retracted and she spoke to me now in velveteen tones, licking my scars and asking me how I was doing. She added that the last thing she wanted was to cause me stress, and gave me time to get my breath back between questions. Quick, quick slow, ask ask... wait. Jab jab... stroke.

2nd Column = Refusal

I remember being arrested once. One cop jabbed and quizzed me with his probing words, then another one came in all offering me fags and slapping my back and telling me what a bastard the other guy was. Now we're in a recession. Who can afford the luxury of paying a Good Cop and also a Bad One? Double 'em up and roll them into one. Just have Mesq'ita, but give her a different hat. Have your own hats on too, practise your quick changes and with a fair wind, and truth to back you up, you may win your with your written plan and enter into a contract with your local government.


  1. I can't wait for the next installment.

  2. Oh my, sir - it is quite a saga. I, too, eagerly await......

  3. Sounds like Sweden, suffer with you since i've been in their claws even if happerly just for shorter periods *hug*

  4. Seems like a good change, hopefully it means you get what you need, and end up saving the government money. Some people don't care about saving the government money, but I'd sure love to have my acupuncture covered, and massage, and chiropractor, and physiotherapy. Maybe with being able to go to those services as often as I'm needing them without having to dole out from my "support allowance" I'd be able to get off disability, and end up saving the government a whole heck of a lot of money.

  5. At the moment, things here seem to be more talking the talk than walking the walk. Nonetheless their job is the planning and setting up; the recipients need to show dedication, keep records and have their finger on the financial button. But not bad considering that many local authorities' initial response was that there was "No Way" they would hand money over to the recipients of the care.
    Our responsibility now is to do our bit to make it work well.
    Certainly giant strides have been taken since the 1970's where so often social care consisted of handing you a mug of soup and "leaving you to it".
    I believe that the schemes are operating patchily, according to where you live in the UK, and obviously the global economic downturn throws out huge challenges, to say the least.