The Department of Wasted Priorities

Ellen had a day off college today in order to enjoy an enforced ‘assessment with a healthcare professional’.  The summons came through the post and was ordered by the Department of Work and Pensions who presumably wanted to assure themselves that Ellen is in fact disabled and not committing benefit fraud.  Had the shadowy department read any of the documents and reports created by similar healthcare professionals about Ellen over the last 20 years, they could have saved both of us time and money.

Ellen guarding the water cooler

The waiting room was sparsely furnished both of objects and people.  We were in fact the only ones waiting, and wait we did, a 10-15 minutes estimate turned into 40 minutes with Ellen becoming increasingly twitchy and entertaining herself by drinking as many cups of water as possible from the water cooler.  I decided to try and recoup something from the 2-hour round trip and filled out the expenses claim form for petrol.  Did they pay the Inland Revenue rate of 45p per mile?  Er no, a whopping 25p per mile is doled out which reduced my petrol claim a rather measerly £9.10.

Eventually a short, black-haired woman in her late thirties came to collect us.  I walked to the hallway with Ellen following and the lady announced that the assessment room was on the first floor and did we need the lift?  Clearly she had not read Ellen’s file.  Not overly impressed with her powers of observation either, I replied ‘no, the stairs will be fine’ leaving the look of surprise on my face a fraction longer than was necessary.

The assessment room itself contained two chairs and and a hospital bed with a layer of disposable paper on it, good luck with that, I thought.

‘This will take no more than 20 minutes’ she explained.  In fact it took 6.

She began; ‘So Ellen has ‘autism, learning difficulties and dyspraxia?’  She paused, ‘I don’t really know why you’re here.’

‘Neither do I’, I replied.

Why Ellen was there was even less obvious.  After the first question ‘are you still going to college?’ was ignored by Ellen, I was asked to reply on her behalf.

‘Oh, I assumed you wanted to interview Ellen, hence her being told to come and having to have a day off college in order to get here?’

‘Oh well you can answer the questions, as you’re her appointee’.

Silence hung heavily in the room for a moment.

I then noticed that the woman had a copy of Ellen’s EHCP in front of her.  She gathered herself and began to ask a few questions towards gauging Ellen’s ability to get up, get dressed, cook food and travel to college. All of which require supervision and all of which is detailed in her EHCP.

As usual, all the questions seemed to be geared around physical ability and totally irrelevant for someone with learning difficulties.  ‘Can you load and start a washing machine?’ is a memorable question from one form.  Of course, physically, Ellen could load and start a washing machine.  But without prompting and supervision she would never see the need to wash anything, and even if she did, she’d have no clue about unloading it and drying it.  I think the woman took this on board, but of course, nothing will change.  She muttered that she could complete the rest of the form without us and so we left.

Ellen did not utter one word.

One positive has come out of it though, Ellen has discovered the delights of the Word Cookies ap!


We can beat Betty Crocker, can’t we?

Chopping the pesky Bramleys

The last time Ellen persuaded me to make a Betty Crocker cake (and ‘made’ is hyperbole) my NT daughter told me it was one of the best cakes she’d ever tasted.  The E numbers take up most of the back of the packet and, like a McDonalds burger, it didn’t seem to ever go bad. I have no doubt the whole range will soon be condemned by Public Health England.

Today, Ellen and I were supposed to be going to the zoo to see the new female tiger, but the monsoon-like rain which has anchored itself over England for the past month forced us to make other plans.  So, I’m sure like many other desperate families during the drenched Easter Holidays, we decided to make a cake.

We braved the downpour to make a trip to Tesco to buy the necessary healthy ingredients and the Bramley apples proved to be difficult to locate and weigh at the till and so provided Ellen with a lot of welcome challenges and opportunities for me to guide her.  As we passed the ‘home baking’ aisle, Ellen lovingly stroked the Betty Crocker chocolate fudge cake mix packets.

‘We’re not making that today’ I announced cheerfully ‘we’re making a healthy cake’.  I chose to overlook the fact that Ellen had already put a spaghetti bolognaise ready meal, 3 packets of sweets and some chocolate buttons in the trolley.


Mission accomplished!

After our healthy lunch, we proceeded to make the ‘healthy cake’.  The three massive Bramleys were quite a challenge to peel, but Ellen proved to be very adept at cutting them into chunks.  She was also very keen to break the eggs and mix them together and enthusiastically grabbed the sieve to sift the flour and cinnamon, unfortunately without appreciating that it improved the success rate to hold the sieve over the mixing bowl and not the floor! (This is one of those times when having dogs is a bonus).

When the cake finally emerged from the oven an hour later, Ellen had lost interest and was busy tucking into her sweets.  I gave a piece to my NT daughter who looked at it without enthusiasm, ‘I don’t usually like these kind of cakes’ she began, ‘I’m only saying that so you don’t think it’s your cooking if I don’t like it’.  This was followed by exaggerated ‘mmmm’ ‘mmmm’ noises before half the cake was deposited back in front of me.  ‘It’s really nice Mum, but I had a big lunch so I can’t finish it, but you have it.’

How kind, I thought, tucking in.  However, I’m not sure it will be terribly healthy for me to eat the entire cake on my own.