Current situation: We’re still waiting.

So.

We had the grievance meeting concerning the experience Husband has had at his workplace in the beginning of the month. It was attended by our union rep, Husband and myself. From the employer’s side came the treasurer, who had been tasked with investigating our grievance.

I can’t deny, I felt a bit bad for her. After Husband’s boss left in July, the treasurer had been thrown in and has had to sort everything out from staff rotas etc. while training the new manager. So she hasn’t been able to get any information from her regarding our claims. But she did use the fact that Husband’s boss isn’t there anymore as a shield for a lot of the stuff we were concerned about – when it is in fact the whole organization who is at fault. Everyone is responsible for ensuring they are compliant with Equality and Diversity in the workplace. It’s as though there’s a culture there of that this kind of behaviour is acceptable. Nobody seems to challenge it, anyway, and that means accepting it, in my book.

Husband still has not had any hours since the end of July. The union rep queried this and what the treasurer said is that while Husband did put his holidays in the calendar, as he had not put his availability in the calendar, he was not scheduled to work any shifts.

Apparently when Husband’s boss was leaving, the treasurer took over putting together the rotas for the summer. The treasurer told the boss and deputy that she would be doing this based on what was put in the calendar, and to cascade this information to the staff so they would put their availability in the calendar.

They don’t seem to have told Husband this. In addition he went in with his timesheet in the beginning of August and verbally told the deputy he was available to work. They said they might have some work for him the following week, but of course we heard nothing. Can’t help but think the deputy is responsible for a lot of the upset Husband has gone through.

What really grinds my gears as well is that Husband has for three whole years while volunteering and later working there, always been given his shifts by text. Every. Single. Week. Why would he just understand that the procedure was different, unless he was told what to do?

We learnt that the workplace are in severe trouble financially due to parents either being in poor financial straits themselves or for simply not paying their bills. According to the treasurer, they’ve now had to sell some of the debt on to debt collection as the workplace is stretched very thin financially.

The treasurer did not say it directly but implied it was the main reason why Husband’s boss was asked to leave as she’d given people too many chances and agreed to let them pay in installments.

Because of this they will not be using any relief workers at the workplace apart from the holidays now, as they are contractually obligated to pay the manager and deputy, and the two apprentices they have.

The workplace has taken the log we have kept with what has happened to Husband, and also our list of Reasonable Adjustments, and will respond to these. Eventually.

Husband still wants to pursue the grievance as he feels it’s important to see through to the finish, but he has resigned himself to the fact that he now needs to consider his options.

Back to jobhunting, now. He naturally finds this quite daunting as he has not done this for three years.

This time it will be different though. Husband now has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and we are exploring what support there is available for him through Jobcentreplus and Remploy.

All the same, I am worried about him and his mental health as I will be going back to work six days a week starting Monday. I wish i could spend more time at home to support him, but as the main breadwinner it’s just not possible. We need the money now. More than ever.

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The unknown of trying new things. And the delight of finding you can manage.

Husband did something that’s not quite like him this week, and managed it as well.

He made dinner for me! And, he made something that he hadn’t made before, and he managed to do it.

For the uninitiated: Some people who have Asperger’s Syndrome struggle with things that are new and different, and encountering these things make them anxious. Some may also need very clear instructions and support with doing tasks.

For Husband, saying ‘just cook it until it’s golden all over’ for example is not helpful as he won’t understand what that would mean. How long is that for? And what shade of golden? Instead, you say ‘preheat the oven for 5 minutes. After the oven has preheated for 5 minutes, put the food in at 180 degrees for 45 minutes. Set a timer on your phone for it.’

Husband does cook but it has to be things he knows and has made before. Even then he will ask me to come and check the food and check it’s going ok.

I asked Husband if he could cook dinner on Wednesday as it is normally the hardest day at work for me, as it is so busy. He said he would and then said he would cook something new, try something different. I said that was ok and to think about what to buy and to check the cupboards as well, and I said if it didn’t work that we could have a takeout, that that would also be fine.

He said he would try making what he had in mind, and asked me to buy some crusty bread on my way home.

Well! I came home from work and we had this!

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Husband made dinner! Potato, carrot and onion soup with mixed herbs, garlic and bacon.

He was so pleased with himself that me managed to do the recipe first time around with no support. It was delicious and he has said he will make it again for us. He explained to me in great detail how he’d researched recipes, gone up to the Co-Op to buy the ingredients and then peeled and chopped everything.

It might seem odd for some to celebrate it. But I am so proud of him for giving it a go and I can tell he was pleased with it, and that it’s given his confidence a boost. It is a big deal for him and I will continue to encourage him to try new things in future.

 

Applying for PIP: Our experience, part 2.

Husband was assessed by someone from Capita in our home for his assessment for PIP; after a slight hiccup as she could not find our house we got started.

To start the PIP assessment you have to show two kinds of identification; we chose Husband’s passport and birth certificate for this purpose.

The lady had a laptop where she wrote all her answers down and she stayed for about an hour.

I have mixed feelings about how Husband’s assessment went.

An hour is in my opinion not enough to accurately gauge someone’s needs and how well they function in everyday life in my opinion. Husband presents very well but does need a lot of support with everyday living – and how can you assess that from sitting across from him in a chair and asking questions? Surely you need to see what he does to cope with day to day living to make that assessment?

I’d read through our PIP form to remind myself what we said, and I stupidly assumed we would be asked about what we had put on the form. But when the lady started, she seemed to jump back and forth between different points, which threw me a bit.

She asked Husband about his mental health, how he coped at school (asking about support he was offered there) and how he copes with going out and meeting new people. Thank goodness I was there to be able to fill in extra information.

One particular point which irked me was when she was asking Husband about finances and how he copes with reading forms and correspondence. We stated on the form and Husband reiterated during the assessment that he isn’t able to read and understand his bank statements and do forms as he doesn’t understand them. I help him with this; when he does job applications I will read him the questions and he answers them, and I fill in forms for him. I read his bank statements when they come to see if there are any discrepancies as he doesn’t understand them.

Well this lady laboured this part in particular, asking Husband three times, ‘but do you think you could do it with support, if someone showed you what to do?’ and Husband answered no each time.

Couldn’t help but get a bit cross with her. We explained on the form that he struggles with this and why and that I am the one doing it. Husband said on the form that if he had to do it he wouldn’t understand what to do, or what the forms or numbers mean.

Was she trying to catch Husband out by making out that his support needs seem less than they are?

And what does that insinuate about me, exactly? That I’m somehow controlling everything and not giving Husband a chance to try?

Husband trusts me to do the right thing. I know his banking details and information but always ask before accessing this and I would never do something without his consent or without his knowledge. I have more than once in our relationship let him know that if he wants to sit with me as I go through things and have me explain things, I am more than happy to do that. If there is something I feel we need to do, I take the time to explain it to him so we can discuss what we do next. And everything I have ever done is in Husband’s best interest regarding money, bills, planning, applying for stuff, planning for the future.

And believe me I have looked as I know that you can get a Lasting Power of Attorney in place. I just don’t feel that would be appropriate for us at this time as he is capable of making his own decisions and I feel an LPA would make our relationship very uneven. We are husband and wife and as such equal in our relationship, and putting an LPA in place for Husband would shift the balance of the relationship away from Husband in my opinion.

Nevermind. It’s done now and we have to wait to hear what the DWP say. But I am bracing myself as I am fully prepared for having to appeal their decision if they turn our application down.

One thing to note is that this process does take time and that you need to be patient. I rang the PIP hotline on the 19th of May to start the process off, and we are still waiting for a decision. So this process is not for people who are impatient/have no income ><.

I am grateful for: People who understand.

I had a wonderful experience yesterday, despite us being in limbo waiting for the situation at Husband’s workplace to be resolved.

We need to start genuinely considering what we are doing next, as Husband is not sure even if this gets resolved that he wants to go back to this job. And having just the one part-time job (less than 10 hours a week) is not enough for us to live on and pay off the mortgage and our debts.

Husband’s mother suggested to us that now that Husband’s got a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, he would be eligible for more help and support in finding and maintaining employment, or accessing training and further education, mainly from JobCentrePlus and their Disability Employment Advisors. They were very supportive of Husband’s sister which is why she recommended it.

Husband was not very keen at all; we have been through the system many, many times since he left college and had numerous encounters with the JobCentre and Jobseeker’s Allowance, all of which have been bad. But he realises we have to at least try, so I rang the hotline to get some information about it and how Husband could access this.

We were off to a bad start immediately as the lady answering my call a) wasn’t quite sure what I was asking and b) did not seem very interested. I had a bit of time yesterday before going to do my voice work, so decided to swing by our local JobCentre myself to spare Husband the stress, and just ask what was available and how Husband could access it. I realized I might not get to see somebody as you are supposed to have an appointment but went to the Information Desk (it was empty) and waited for someone to come over.

A security guard came over and asked if I needed help and I explained why I was there. He asked me to wait and then went to fetch a lady who is one of the DEA workers there. She asked me to come round and sit at her desk and tell her what I wanted to ask about.

What a change! When Husband was previously on JSA he couldn’t speak to anyone unless he had an appointment and here I was just being invited in.

I explained our situation briefly and that Husband was having a hard time at work, as he has a zero hour contract and hasn’t been given any hours now for three weeks. And how soul-destroying it is and how it is wrecking his self confidence at the moment.

She was very understanding and seemed to understand how hard it would have been for Husband prior to being diagnosed as he would have had to come up with coping strategies to be able to cope with work and things. She also said that if we were to access the services she would like to speak to him as Aspergers and ASD is such a spectrum and as such, people who are in different places on the spectrum require different kinds of support at work.

She gave me the names and numbers of three different support groups and Remploy, and said that there is different support available for Husband, but that he has to decide what he wants to do next. Once he does, she said to come back and we can take it from there.

Above all, she was interested in what I had to say and Husband and his story.

So: I am grateful for people who understand. It’s like balm for the soul to not have to explain everything in great detail, because people understand. What a difference it makes. Despite everything that is going on in our lives as the moment, that really made my day and I for now think that things can get better as this support will be available to Husband.

 

 

Current mood: In limbo.

These last two weeks have been spent trying to keep Husband distracted as his mood has been quite low.

Since his boss left at the end of July, Husband has not been given any hours at all. Suspect that now that Deputy Manager is in charge, this will be a staple as she has been quite mean to Husband in the past and is know for gossiping about other members of staff.

One of the things Husband was marked down for on his appraisal was for not being available as he ‘took so much holiday’. The last three breaks he has been available almost the whole time and he has not been called in at all. It’s like he can’t win.

Husband is feeling very low now. Part of it is because he feels like they are wasting his time; he said to me the other night that if he had known he would not have been called in at all, he would have suggested we go away somewhere.

The other part of it is of course that he doesn’t feel wanted. Not being called in is really eroding his self-belief and he’s told me that he felt like he had a purpose there when he was at work. He really feels like he is the odd one out and that he isn’t liked.

He says to me that it is constantly churning at the back of his mind.

To make things worse, Husband went in at the beginning of August with his July timesheet. To find that there were two new members of staff there. We don’t know, of course, if they are volunteers or paid staff as the workplace often take on volunteers. But nevertheless, that means hours that Husband could have had are given to other people. This smells like constructive dismissal to me, on top of the discrimination and bullying husband has had to face at work, but we’ll see what the union rep says.

We are still waiting to have the meeting with the employer with the union present. This week was suggested but we have not heard anything at all.

So we are in limbo effectively while we are waiting.

Husband is unsure what to do now. We have spoken about it and he understand he will inevitably have to find something else to do, but is unsure if that means new job or going back to college. Both of which he finds daunting as he is so paranoid nobody is going to like him and he is going to ‘mess things up.’

I am not going to lie, I am worried he is becoming depressed again. It is ‘ok’ for now as I am at home but I am concerned what will happen when I have to go back to work at the end of the summer.

Still haven’t heard anything regarding husband’s PIP assessment either. The form was sent off in the start of June and Capita has sent us a letter to say they are processing it, but it will be a month since that letter at the end of the week. So need to chase that.

Part of me wonders why it has to be so hard for some people to just be nice, and treat someone with a bit of dignity.

The goals of this year’s staycation.

I’m done working at the college and the university for the summer (apart from the odd Saturday 10am to 2pm) as I work term-time. Won’t be back at work now until the 28th of August now, and not back full time (six days a week) until the 1st of October.

Part of me wants to bask in this. You’ve worked SO had and this year has brought out feelings you didn’t even know you possessed, you DESERVE a rest!

But not going to lie, it feels super weird to not be at work. It’s quite unsettling, the lack of routine. It’s been about two weeks now and I feel ready to come back!

Because of husband’s work and the grievance we have decided to pursue, I feel a bit in limbo at the moment as I don’t feel we can go anywhere until this has been settled. We are due to travel home to Norway in the end of August for a week to see my family but that’s everything we are doing travelling wise.

Husband’s workplace have received our grievance and confirmed that they have received it so we will see what they do with it. They have to investigate it and respond in a timely manner, they cannot legally ignore it according to our union, so we’ll see what happens with that. Work itself has been very calm and nobody has mentioned the grievance at all. However the quite frankly infuriating way husband has been treated at work this year is not diminished or excused by this period of apparent calmness. I don’t trust them and am very interested to see what they come back with once they have investigated our allegations, as the burden of evidence is on the employer, it is THEIR responsibility to prove husband has not been discriminated against.

Anyway. Yes, Staycation this year. So in an attempt to make it more structured, I sat down and wrote a list when the staycation started, naming some things I want to do this summer.

I have added to it though as I’ve completed things. I know, I know, I need to relax! But let’s face it, as I work six days a week from September to June, WHEN will I have time to do things like:

  • Visit the Windmill. We have a working windmill that’s open to visitors and in all my years of living in Nottingham I have never been to visit it.
  • Clean the whole kitchen. Cupboards, inside and out. Sort them. Doors. On top of cupboards. Clean oven. Clean outside of oven. Pull oven out and clean behind it. Done! YASS!
  • Clean the windows and windowsills I can reach. Done.
  • Visit husband’s sister and husband in Wales. We are going, this weekend!
  • Write a review a week. Since finishing at work I have written two. I write and publish my reviews here.
  • Go through our clothes upstairs and my clothes in the bedroom to sort and donate/sell/give away stuff not used.
  • Dust the blinds downstairs. Done
  • Visit the park up the street, bring food.
  • Go to Wollaton Hall and walk around the lake.
  • Tidy, wipe down and sort the shelf by the bathroom. Done.
  • Copy down all my reviews and store them somewhere safe.
  • Do our tax returns. Done.
  • Get a will written?
  • Take our duvets and pillows to the launderette. Done.
  • Do 30 minutes on the exercise bike every day. Pahahaha. Not even done this once yet. I am so bad at this whole healthy lifestyle thing:(
  • Clean the covers of the two Poang armchairs. Done.
  • Defrost and clean the fridge freezer.

What about you? Do you have anything you’d like to do this summer? Are you having a staycation?

A Jam-packed June.

Where did June go? It seems to just have whizzed by.

Despite this, June has been a very calm month, which we needed. Calm before the storm methinks, as we have asked the union to send husband’s employer the grievance letter now. Not a moment to soon as his employers continue to be infuriating.

Good things about June has been:

  • The weather has been lovely, meaning we’ve got some gardening on. I was gifted some plants for the garden so will see if I can get those going.
  • We’ve been under budget for the groceries again, which I’m very pleased about. We’ve still got some left of the food my sister’s family gifted us in April and it’s been such a boon to us. I managed to get some lovely reduced food and bargains from the fruit stall near my work. I also managed to snag some freebies with our last shop with Sainsbury’s.
  • Having Sundays free now as term has finished at the uni for the summer. No Sundays at work until October now! Yass!
  • Visiting our friends for a weekend, which was lovely and just what we needed.
  • We managed to list 47 new items on eBay we cleared out from when we did the flooring downstairs, when we had to empty the bookshelves.

Things that could have been improved about June were:

  • Husband’s workplace are still being ridiculous. The second part of his review which was due to happen mid-June was postponed due to a staff meeting and they have not arranged another date. This is the 6th time it has been pushed back. Manager texting husband at midnight to ask if he can work the next day. Husband was pulled to one side this week and was told to get in touch with the union rep as they have been trying to ring them but not getting a reply. They want a meeting arranged so that they can ‘hear what he has been saying to the union about them.’

We’ve had a letter regarding husband’s PIP application to say that Capita will be handling his PIP assessment.

PIP
Hmmmmmm.

Not quite sure how to feel about this.

To finish off, here is a picture of some street art we’ve got at the end of the path by the house:

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I think these are so cool. I especially like the ‘Practice Kindness’ one.