Sunday, 10 April 2011

Work, benefits, and the Broken of Britain

'The Broken of Britain' asked about peoples work stories. This is a brief outline of mine.

I find the whole 'tell disabled people they must work' thing stupid. Tell that to the employers, not the disabled people who have lost jobs because employers didn't make the changes requested.

I trained as an Environmental Health Officer (4 yr degree + professional exams) and I was the best officer in the department. Even as I became increasingly disabled and could no longer go on inspections I was the legal advice resource for every other officer and the 'difficult case worker-outer' for the department. Yes, it was tough working while one wheels and with multiple health issues, but I did it, and was proud of it. My direct bosses were extremely supportive. I had lots of little adaptations and special arrangements that made it possible. Infact everyone up to the departmental Director was.

Then came an office move. Unfortunately the facilities team saw my requests for accessibility/health related adapations as political wrangling and failed to act on them. HR became involved and saw 'a young woman who is upset. Lets calm her down'. I was upset because I could see my job slipping away from me, slowly and tortuously over a year, and all I wanted was someone with backbone to stand up and say 'get this sorted' before my health worsened too much or I lost my job.

Oh the politically correct terms were happily bandied about: accessibility, DDA compliance, equality and all that. But when it came to the fact that if I get too warm I go like I've had a stroke - nothing happened. We knew that the new office was unsuitable and asked for changes. They weren't done. But I was told they were done and tried to work there. I collapsed. A year later and I still couldn't hold a 10 min conversation reliably - frequently not even a sentance. Later they put in an air con unit at the cost of a few hundred pounds. It would have made work safe and possible and I had repeatedly asked for one. But too late. The regular part time hours I managed then, I still cannot manage now, 18 months on despite pioneering new treatment over the past few months.

I haven't given up though - I started this business! And I intend to make a success of it. When I work for myself I am in control of my environment and my coping strategies. For now, that is the only way I know I will be as safe as possible. True, I earn little at present, but I am lucky to have a talent that lends itself to the freestyle, irregular hours, random breaks etc that I need.

I worked for the government. Their failures lost me more health and my job. And now they say that me and people like me are at fault for not having a conventional job? I could never say to someone with complex health needs that they need to be employed - there is too much ignorance out there, and sometimes the cost of that ignorance is almost too high to bear.

1 comment:

  1. sometimes you feel like screaming 'don't you think I would MUCH rather be able to work than broken like this? with people shaking their heads at me all the time because they see me walking, therefore I must be fit and healthy'
    They don't see the times when I can't step out the house.....
    but who will employ someone who can't guarantee their brain will work every day?

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