"Don't throw tea at me!" A Very Bendy Job Interview

6/27/2013 12:02:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 5 Comments

Yesterday I had my first, formal job interview in more than a decade. It went well...I think, although my criteria for 'well' may not be quite those of the typical job seeker. For me, well, meant that I did not throw up in front of or on any of the interview panel. This is a good thing as apparently vomit can be a tad offputting in an employee.

We got off to a good start with the water, offered to me in those light weight, disposable plastic cups which are definitely designed to do nothing except fly independely across a room, showering their contents as they go. I'm not sure 'do you mind if I stick to using my plastic bottle' is a standard interview question, but it really should be. 

I also did not fall over, well, not completely fall over anyway - judging by the haste with the chair of the interview panel displayed in attempting to reach me before I tried to get out of my seat, falls risk was paramount in their minds.

When the noise of dislocating joints was too loud to ignore I tried to hide my grimace of pain with a smile. That kind of got us all through the first dislocation which was only a finger when the panel all twitched and asked if I would perhaps like a rest. We soldiered on and clearly dislocation training worked as when I managed to pop back both shoulders, elbows and multiple ribs stretching with the impressive staccato sound effect of multiple gun fire only the panel twitched. I was cool, calm, laid back and professional throughout. Honest. Hopefully the recording did not pick up my muttered cursing at the pain or the nauseated expression of the panel members.

Being aware that body language is an important part of any interview strategy I tried really, really hard to have some that wasn't rude. Sensibly I wore a dress long enough to avoid potential panel pant flashing incidents.That worked quite well. For keeping my pants hidden. Less well on the not flashing my bra at the panel when it turned out the only way I could get up from the chair was to lie my entire upper body on the table and lever myself up. Fortunately one panel member was busy sprinting across the room to assist me and the others politely averted their eyes from my bra. I felt reassured that at least I had on a bra, and that it was both pretty and clean. I'm sure they'll give me the job on that basis alone - 'can manage to find and wear clean underwear' is definitely a formal requirement in most jobs.

The 'managing to remain upright in a seat' part of the interview was a challenge too far for me and I appreciated the panel's polite response to my constant wiggling, popping and occasional slumping onto the table for a rest mid sentence.

The interview ended on a wonderful question 'Did Kanga tell you about that?' to which the only obvious answer is 'Kanga facilitated communication'. Sadly I was too distracted by intense pain to manage something quite so coherent but I was very glad to see the panel respected Winnie The Pooh as much as I do.

Weirdly, despite all that I enjoyed the experience. I know, I know, it really is time to address getting out more often to do things classed as 'fun', job interviews not being top of most right minded people's idea of a good time. I think the panel enjoyed it too as one member generously offered to let me throw water over her anytime, but specified no hot tea. Perhaps they've been reading my blog?

Since being returned home I have done nothing but sleep, take oramorph, sleep, take more oramorph and whine pathetically about how bad I feel. When I was leaving the interview it did occur to me that potentially this opiate/sleep/pain cycle might impair my performance in any job and that perhaps even Atos had a point finding me unfit to work. Frankly that thought was obviously running through the mind's of the panel too so we did have a little chat about the feasability of the job for someone in my position. They were very encouraging about time to rest and recover though so that was kind. They also had a better mastery of body language than me too as they clearly projected 'I think you should probably be in bed love' without any need for a Babel fish translator.


BBC Breakfast June 10th #PIP National Roll Out

6/20/2013 01:08:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 2 Comments


Kanga and coke - 100 Voices 2013

6/16/2013 08:36:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 3 Comments

Yesterday was the third annual 100 Voices conference held by Brandon Trust.100 Voices has grown impressively since it started, yesterday was more like 200 voices and the venue felt a bit crowded.

Having covered both employment and transport at past events, this year the subject chosen through the area forums was personal safety ie hate crime. It was great to see so many different organisations attending to give presentations or supply information - the MP Charlotte Leslie came along for the morning and gave a speech, there were police community support officers with safety devices to give away and beautiful bulging biceps (I'm not certain the biceps were a requirement but I feel they should become so every year) a police inspector who spoke, the lord mayor of bristol and many more. This year Billy who has moderate learning disabilities compered the whole event and did an amazing job - watching him tease the police inspector about all the senior officers he claimed to know was hilarious as the inspector clearly thought Billy was a senior staff member who was astonishingly well connected!

The standard of presentations is very high, each user forum group puts on their own show - this year we saw a reconstruction of the kind of daily harassment people with learning disabilities experience on public transport and a brilliant performance of 'our house' by madness which the team had rewritten to explain their lives. Just fantastic!

Of all the events I get asked to speak at 100 Voices is the most difficult to prepare for and the most rewarding. Usually I try to do something positive and upbeat, but that was a tough task covering hate and mate crime. In the end I decided to talk about friendship, what it means and how we can tell when someone isn't really a friend but trying to take advantage. I used some quotes from Winnie the Pooh and we went through some example scenarios of friends and people taking advantage.

You can always tell when a speech has hit home by the people who come to tell you their experiences afterwards and yesterday I was overwhelmed. There were hugs and kisses to express shared emotion and one lady who has come to speak to me every year but then been too shy to say a word dragged me off to see her Kanga bear and told me all about how it makes her feel safe and how much she loves Winnie the Pooh. It was just so fantastic to see someone who in previous years couldn't really manage a word effusive and excited to explain things to me. I'd talked a lot in the speech about how people can sometimes tell disabled people we have to pay for them if we want to go and do something and there was a lot of feedback on that issue, some of it very worrying. But right at the end of the day when I was leaving two of the guys came over with a drink they'd bought for me - it took a while as they both had challenges with verbal communication but by using mime and the odd word they explained they had bought me a drink to say thank you to me. I've been bought many a posh drink, especially in my younger, wilder days but this slightly flat cola was without doubt the best drink anyone has ever bought me.


Labour Announce Independent Task Force - Takes Aim At Disability Poverty (Press Release)

6/10/2013 09:57:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 4 Comments

Labour takes aim at disability poverty
Labour today launched a new taskforce led by Sir Bert Massie, to look at ways to break the link between disability and poverty.
Launched as Disability Living Allowance is abolished nationally, the taskforce will review ways of helping disabled people meet the extra costs that disability imposes and recommend changes to the social security system to maximise disabled peoples’ control over their own lives. The taskforce will focus on better use of existing resources.
The launch of the taskforce follows Ed Miliband’s speech on modernising social security in which he said a Labour government will reform the government’s failing programmes to help support more disabled people into work.
Recent figures revealed disabled people are twice as likely to live in low income households than non disabled people - yet the government's 'strivers tax' will push 50,000 more disabled people into poverty while the DWP's Work Programme is failing to get 98.7 per cent of disabled people into jobs.
The taskforce will be headed by Sir Bert Massie CBE. Sir Bert is disabled and was previously the CEO of The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (now Disability Rights UK) and Chairman of the Disability Rights Commission.  He is currently a Governor of Motability and of Liverpool John Moores University.

Anne McGuire said:
“The government’s so called welfare revolution isn’t helping disabled people, it’s pushing them into poverty. I am delighted that Bert Massie has agreed to chair the taskforce. The members of the group bring a wealth of experience, either as disabled people or those who have worked with disabled people. I am sure they will throw down some interesting challenges to us as we seek to improve the lives of disabled people.” 

Sir Bert Massie said:
“Even in an age of limited resources there are more humane and better ways of supporting disabled people than this government’s unprecedented assault which has left millions of disabled people facing greater poverty. I welcome the determination of the Labour Party to seek ways of enabling disabled citizens to play a full role in society and to provide the support to bring this about. The report of the taskforce will suggest ways forward.”

Notes to editors
1) Other members of the taskforce are:
 Dr Roger Berry - is a former Member of Parliament and is heavily involved in disability issues. Prior to becoming a Parliamentarian he taught economics at Bristol University.
Agnes Fletcher - advises organisations on equality law, policy and practice. She was a Director at the Disability Rights Commission for five years, has provided consultancy to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and other public bodies and has worked as an advisor to government. She is a disabled person.
Neil Crowther – is an independent expert specialising in human rights, equalities and disability rights.  He was previously Director of Human Rights at the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Before joining the EHRC he was Head of Policy at the Disability Rights Commission.
Kaliya Frankin – is a disability activist with a deep interest in social security issues.  Disabled herself, she campaigned against changes to disability benefits introduced by the coalition government.
 Ian Greaves – is the principle author of the highly respected Disability Rights Handbook.
2) Ed Miliband announced this week that the Labour will reform tests for disability benefits so that they aren’t just about the benefits people get but about supporting people to work.
Labour introduced tests for ESA because those that can work should do so. We support tests for DLA & PIP to ensure the benefit goes to those that need it.
But the test needs to improve. When 42 per cent of people are winning their appeals, the Government are clearly not getting it right.
But we want to go further and deliver real savings by supporting disabled people into work and raising the employment rate for disabled people in the UK. We would do that by making the tests as much about what work people could do and the support that would be needed to make that happen, as they are about whether or not someone gets a given benefit.
3) On Monday 10 June new claims for Personal Independence Payment will start in all parts of Great Britain. There will be no new claims to DLA for people aged 16 to 64.