Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I should not be feeling irritable

I should be feeling one hundred and fifty per cent happy and relieved. Three good things have happened in a row. First, we have been approved for Disability Allowance for all three boys (I initially wrote "awarded," but it sounded too Oscar-like. Imagine the acceptance speech. "I cannot thank you three boys enough! We could never have got this money without your propensity to appalling behaviour in public! I have no words!") It's not a large amount, but times three it is more significant, it will enable us to pay the stonkingly large electricity and rates bills we received this month for starters. Second, we have been given a significant amount of respite, both carers' days (annual) and a weekly number of personal care hours. This will enable my husband and I to go out for an evening together and for myself to get help with getting the children bathed and to bed. The combination of the disability allowance and the respite support means New Zealand is treating my family very generously indeed, to the point where, in writing about it here, a paranoid part of me expects my blog to shoot to national attention, lampooned and vilified as an example of immigrants-taking-our-national-resources in the local press. "Lazy Brits coming over here and nicking our respite centres," that kind of thing. Thirdly, I was complimented on the way my boys played nicely together in a softplay centre this afternoon, which left me glowing (and checking discreetly over my shoulder that the mum in question had not got my kids mixed up with someone else).
This is all, clearly, excellent. So why am I ever so mildly, unreasonably, grumpy tonight?

It's a small issue, but a vexing one. The organisation that assessed my sons for respite decided that my elder two qualified but my youngest didn't, because he was too young, but that he would qualify when he was older. This would be perfectly reasonable were it not clearly stated in their own guidelines that they provide support from birth to 65 years old, and had they not explicitly told me - twice, once in referral process and once in the actual assessment meeting - that he would qualify for some support. So someone has backtracked, or changed policy unofficially, or something.

I should not be grumpy about this. I am very grateful for the help we are going to get. But it always irks me when institutions ration support on spurious grounds, and it clearly irked the non-governmental support agency I asked to clarify the position today, too. They told me that the organisation seemed to be breaching its own guidelines, and would I like them to raise the issue on my behalf with them?

If it was England, my response would be "Yes, too right I would." This kind of injustice is much better to fight openly: you don't get anything without shouting for it, and the chances of your life being made longterm harder by wrangling with the DWP are pretty slim, England has a lot of people in it and the chances of your application being dealt with by the same person twice is pretty low. But here, the population is small and becoming known as a difficult parent in the world of disability support is not a great idea. Moreover, I haven't been here long enough to have a good gut instinct about what is worth being stroppy about and what is not. I don't know the rules. I don't understand the system, and I don't understand the pros and cons of making a fuss. It irks me, but I think I must put up and shut up for now. Shrinking violet time. Because, after all, I am genuinely grateful for the huge amount we HAVE received, even if I am mildly grumbly about the very small amount we have not.


  1. Hmmm, you know what they say about the squeaking wheel, don't you? It does get the oil.

    But having said that, you're settling in that community, and yes, perhaps there's something to be said for patience. Can you take a middle path? Say nothing now, take what you can get, establish what a reasonable and appreciative person you are... then raise a polite challenge to the Powers That Be in a few months? I believe it's known as passive aggressive (and is similar to the approach I will be taking re. our visa - once we get it, I will write stern letters. Till then, I'm playing ball).

  2. Yes, I think that may be wise advice. I definitely need to get everything else set up first and THEN raise it. Trouble is, I don't know what the consequences are: in the uK, if you ask for a re-evaluation of DLA because you think your rate is too low, you risk losing the lot. Obviously in the youngest's case, I don't ahve anything to lose - but I woudln't want to put the other two's provision at risk, not when I am so excited about receiving it!