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I want a job.

I really want a job.

The Government would be so happy if I could come off benefits and get a job.

I would be so happy if I could come off benefits and get  job.

There is only one impediment to this laudable ambition of theirs, and mine – I am severely disabled and stuck in bed most of the time, so, I am not able to go out to work, the work would have to come to me.

And this, apparently, is a major and seemingly insurmountable stumbling block.

But why? What’s the problem? Why can’t the work come to me? In this wonderfully technological day and age, with computers, video conferencing, telephone conferencing, Sype, the internet and even that strange new invention called the telephone, why do I have to go to a specific location, such as an office, city, or even country, in order to work? Is it really necessary for me to leave my home at all?

To be honest, that, as far as I am concerned anyway, is so last century. The experience I have and the roles I am qualified and extremely familiar with in a workplace can easily be done without having to move location at all. I am happy to admit that there are many, many jobs where the employee does have to be in a specific building or town or workplace in order to do what they are trained to do, such as a doctor, a bus driver, a postman, a prison officer, a supermarket cashier, a chef but, equally, there are many, many  roles which can be done from just about anywhere and no-one would know any difference.

Take me, for example. I, like many people, have the transferable skills which would allow me to be able to work, in my chosen profession, from anywhere. I’m not anything special or important or awe-inspiring, I have around twenty-five years experience in providing advice and information, on a variety of subjects, to disabled and older people. I did, or do this, by phone, email or in the form of advice leaflets, information sheets, magazines and current awareness bulletins which I have written, edited and published for national and regional organisations and charities in my area. And that’s it. That’s me. That’s what I do. But for some reason, all the employers who are looking for people who can do what I do, would want me to travel to them to do it.

Why?

In my last paid employment I was taking details of clients’ legal problems and booking them an appointment for a telephone advice session with a lawyer. Either that, or referring them elsewhere that may be more suitable for their needs or sending them an information leaflet that would, hopefully, answer their question. Nothing more complicated than that. So, what was there  which meant I had to travel to the other side of London on a noisy, smelly, crowded bus every day at crack-of-stupid in the morning and then fight my way back home again on the same buses, exhaused and frustrated in the evening? I have no idea. I could have done the exactly the same thing from the comfort of my living room and no-one would have been able to tell unless I felt the need to let them know.

And I’m not just guessing, I know this, from personal experience. At one point during my employment with the company I had to have an operation, which necessitated a lengthy recovery period. Essentially, my brain and abilities were unaffected, I just had to be careful and wait for the wound to heal and for the stitches to be removed. That was it. I wasn’t sick, just incapacitated. So, I had to stay home. And I was so bored and so fed up and I felt so useless. In desperation, I had a chat with my boss and, because he was forward thinking and had also had problems finding someone who could cover for me whilst I recuperated, we implemented a system whereby my office phone was linked to my home phone and the client database and advice rota were linked to my home computer and bingo, I could  continue with my work, uninterrupted. If someone rang in I would take the details of the issue, make notes about their case on our system, check the availability of our legal professionals and book an appointment for the client to get the advice they needed. Not only that, but I was able to undertake research for advice leaflets, write articles for the magazines I was responsible for and send the copy to the printer for publication and distribution. And, I didn’t have to move a muscle.

So why do we still have this preoccupation with having to work from somewhere special? Surely, having employees who work from home is beneficial to both employees and employers alike. Employees can work for anyone, anywhere, and so, can look for the job that is best for them, regardless, without having to move and the employer doesn’t have to pay for premises or heating or lighting or equipment for an expensive office building. Just make sure that employees have the things they may need to be able to work from home such as a computer, internet access and a phone line. Not only that, but they can employ anyone, from anywhere. They can employ the best possible person for the job regardless of where they are.     

It doesn’t sound too complicated to me.

I feel that we need to have a complete rethink about work and what work actually means in this country. We are in the technologically advanced, twenty-first century, not still stuck in the Victorian or Edwardian era. Why can’t employers, next time someone resigns or retires and leaves their business, look at the tasks that need to be done and really consider whether those tasks have to be done from an expensive office or if they can be undertaken by someone working remotely, from their own home? Adverts could be placed online, interviews could conducted by conference call and work could be done from anywhere. Bosses could check work is being done by looking at output and not by staring across their desk at  someone sitting at another desk on the other side of the room. Workers could feel trusted and valued. No-one needs to actually go or be anywhere. Happy employers, happy employees. What’s so bad about that? Telephonists answering the phone in their PJs? What’s the issue? The phone is being ansered regardless. Why not try it and see what happens?

Oh, and, if there are any amazing employers reading this, who would be happy to take a risk and employ a remote Advice and Information Officer, hiya! I’m here and waiting for your call!

Come on Bosses, take a step into the twenty-first century, be brave and go for it, you know it makes sense!

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Regular readers of my blogs will know, without doubt, of my addiction to social media and how often the posts I read on Facebook and Twitter make me angry and inspire my writing. And today is no exception to the rule. Today it is a post on Facebook that has rattled my cage and made me want to write again.

The thoughtless comment I read this morning was yet another post about ‘benefit scroungers’ and fake disabled people. Someone was going on about all the people who are in receipt of PIP (Personal Independence Payments) and it’s predecessor, Disability Living Allowance, who ‘aren’t really disabled and entitled to it’ are they. The fake disabled person, as far as this poster was concerned, was a woman who volunteers in a local charity shop twice a week who gets PIP and has learning difficulties. The point, as far as the poster was concerned anyway, was that learning difficulties wasn’t a proper disability and that PIP was only for people who couldn’t walk or for blind people wasn’t it? No understanding whatsoever. No attempt, that I could see, of any research being done about the payments, just a declaration that the woman in question was a scrounger and a fraud because there was no special something which gave a clue as to her medical diagnosis. Not only that, but at least two responders had suggested that the OP (original poster) should report the woman to the DWP for fraud, especially as she was volunteering, which meant she could obviously work, so shouldn’t be getting any benefits at all should she.

Why is it that the less clued-up general public seems to think that all disabled people must have some sort of sign or badge which marks them out as having an impairment? Why is there little or no understanding for all the thousands of people who have conditions such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, autism, mental health difficulties, diabetes or epilepsy? How about all the people whose impairments have little or no outward manifestation. What about those of us who do not have an aid such as a white stick, a zimmer frame or a wheelchair that means we’re lying. Some of us have nothing at all that marks us out in a crowd. Someone with learning difficulties may need another person with them when they go out to help them get from A to B safely. Someone with diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in their hands might be able to walk but might not be able to hold a pen or pencil so may need a writing aid. Someone in the earlier stages of Multiple Sclerosis or Motor Neurone Disease may need to use cabs to get around but they can still walk a bit. Just because they have no visible sign of an impairment does not make them any less disabled that someone with a guide dog or a mobility scooter.    

And, where does it say that disabled people can’t volunteer or go out to work? To start with, PIP and DLA are welfare payments made to disabled people to help them with the extra costs their impairments cause. DLA and PIP were designed to help put disabled people onto a level playing field with their non-disabled compatriots. They are not a payments that are based on our diagnoses, they are based on our need for some help with our day to day lives. We don’t all have something that marks us out from the rest, a label which says ‘genuinely disabled’ hanging round our necks. More often than not there is nothing special about us to distinguish us at all.  And this leads on to the second myth my original poster and secondary responders were expounding, that DLA and PIP cannot be paid to disabled people who are in work. The extra costs disabled people can incur don’t go away with the arrival of a pay cheque. Someone who is unable to use public transport and has to catch a cab everywhere they go when they are unemployed is still going to have to call a cab to go places after they get a job. They will not, magically, get better the minute they sign an employment contract. Miracle cures don’t work like that or we would all be out there hammering on the doors of recruitment agencies begging for work.

Genuine disabled people don’t wear badges and there is nothing that says that disabled benefit claimants don’t need a little bit extra from public funds to put them on a level playing field, even if they do work. People who post comments on Social Media really do need to think twice and do a bit of research before they hit the enter key. What, at first glance, may look to be unfair usually isn’t. Disabled People are not money grabbing crooks, we’re just people who are trying to make the best of the difficult situation we have found ourselves in, often through no fault of our own. Disparaging and thoughtless comments and social media posts don’t help. If you’re not sure, do a little research, you may learn something and void hurting someone who has done nothing to hurt you. Most people aren’t crooks and should be treated with consideration, however much some social media users may like to believe they are.  

 

A couple of days ago a friend of mine asked me to write an article or blog for a local disability organisation about what I use my computer for. I think she is after something that dispels the mysteries and shows how essential using a computer is becoming in the modern age. So here goes.

Right. What do I use my computer and my access to the internet for most? Well, I suppose that one of the main things I use it for is my addiction to social media. I spend most of my time chatting to people worldwide about what they are doing and what their families are doing. Thanks to my computer and the internet I am able to stay in touch with friends in Canada, with family in the British Virgin Islands and with old school friends who now live nationwide. The internet can also help if you are looking for people you have lost. I have recently found a cousin I’ve not seen or heard from in 25 years who is now living abroad and, a couple of years ago, I discovered, thanks to the internet, that a friend from school that I last saw in 1979 in Chester, 280 miles from my home, now lives a very short bus ride away in South London. We are now able to chat all the time online and we get to meet up fairly regularly for lunch and a reminiscence filled gossip in person. It’s so good to be able to do this and, without the internet, it would never have happened. Then there are my new friends. The world is my oyster. I am now in regular contact with several people I have met online who live in Canada and I was chatting with someone in Australia for hours only last week. People I could never have met any other way.

Then there is my father. I keep in regular touch with him by phone but we also email each other quite a lot. He sends me pictures he has taken and little bits of news of what he and my step-mother have been doing which is wonderful and I can, in turn, keep him up to date with my doings and those of my children . Dad is 81 and my step-mum is 83 so, as you can imagine, it’s great to know they are both OK and still enjoying life to the max and it stops me from worrying.

Then there is my writing. I spend a goodly part of my day writing and It’s something I wouldn’t be able to do at all without my computer and internet access. More than anything in the world I have always wanted to write and be recognised for my writing and now I have the opportunity. I do blogs, like this one and I am also write fiction. As yet nothing published but I can but hope that what comes out of my head will be worthy it one day. The internet is invaluable for both sorts of writing for me. As a severely disabled person I am unable to get to my local library to do any research I may need to do but I now have the world’s best reference library at my fingertips.

Then there is shopping. I have just bought some new tops without having to leave my bed. I spot things I like the look of and before I know what has happened the postman knocks and the goods are mine. No fighting my way down a crowded high street or struggling in a tiny changing room for me, all done from the comfort of my living room. If I find that I don’t like something or it doesn’t fit I can just send it back. No problems there! My computer and the internet is also invaluable for more mundane tasks. I do my weekly shop online and the great God Tescos delivers it all, not only that but the delivery driver will even carry the bags inside for me and put them in the kitchen. And special shopping for birthdays and Christmas is fantastic. Only recently I managed to find a picture of my father’s childhood online home by using a search engine, bought it and gave it to him for Christmas. He was delighted and a more personal present I would be unlikely to find anywhere else.

So, what else can I use my computer for? Well, I can make sure I am receiving all the benefits I’m entitled to using a benefits checker such as Turn2Us and then, if I need to, I can follow links to the appropriate application forms and complete them online. I can look for advice and information on just about any subject I can think of. I can chat to other people who have similar experiences or medical conditions to me which is really good as a mutual support network. It’s so wonderful knowing that someone else has had the same thing happen to them and that I am not alone. Not only that but other people may have some hints and tips so what appeared to be an insurmountable problem has become just a little hiccup and nothing to worry about. I can also book appointments at my GP’s surgery, order repeat prescriptions, report maintenance queries to my landlord, contact my hairdresser

All in all, my computer is now my electronic lifeline. Only yesterday there was a problem with my broadband connection and I couldn’t get online, go one with my writing or anything for four or five hours. It was horrible! I was lost. Sure, I may have had to pay for my connection, buy a computer and learn how to use it but it’s not cripplingly expensive and I’m learning as I go along.

Being stuck in bed most of the time could be really dull and boring but my computer is my escape route and there’s no way I could live without it.  Friends and family, hobbies and support, retail therapy and essential shopping, advice and information, leisure and necessity, it’s all there waiting for me and all I need is a computer and an internet connection to be able to access it all.