Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Same sh1t, different day

I'm now approaching the end of my third official week of full time work after my more than six months off. I say official because although I started working half days, I often stayed on as m'Julie works at the same hospital and I give her a lift home.
However, before I was able to return I had to go through the farce of being seen by the Occupational Health doctor. I say farce because when I actually did see him, it was obvious that his experience of people who had suffered cardiac problems was slightly less than a first year medical student on day one of his course.
I did laugh at him when he informed me that I could return to work, but that he did not want me to attend any emergency situations. Using words of one syllable I explained my job to him, it being constantly attending emergency situations, so he could forget that. He did counter with the fact that it said in his textbook (I think it may have been called Occupational Health Medicine for Dummies) that anybody who has had an MI is at risk of further but seemed to completely miss the point that I had undergone corrective surgery since my MIs. I asked him what it said in his book about that, and in fact insisted that he look it up, and wasn't completely surprised that there was no mention of people who are post-CABG.
So now I'm back at work, doing exactly what I was doing before I had the MI (apart from going out for smoke breaks) and I haven't died, so I must be doing something right.
Although it is nice to be back, there are times that I feel as though I've not been away at all. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I'm not sure. Sadly, the areas that were unsafe are still unsafe, and happily, the areas that were fine are still fine. I even sacrificed watching the Scotland v Wales rugby match on Sunday (although with the result, it wasn't that much of a sacrifice) to teach on an Advanced Life Support course.
The advantage to that is that I ended up with a time-owing day which I am taking at the end of this week, meaning that I'm able to extend the annual leave that I'm taking next week, as its half-term week and the kids are staying for the latter half.
Annual leave is also proving quite lucrative. During the time that I was off last year, I wasn't able to use up any of my annual leave. Consequently, I now have 25 days to take. I'm taking 5 days next week, carrying 5 days over and the Department has agreed to pay me for the other 15 days.

But it may not be that lucrative. In the UK there is a remarkable body called the Child Support Agency. This was set up by the Government to ensure that absent parents paid for their children in an attempt to reduce the burden that these children are to the state. They even have the power (now) to confiscate driving licences and passports from those who do not comply with their orders.

Sadly, although it seems like a good idea in theory, the practice was somewhat different. It was clearly being run by people from another of the Government's schemes, in which they aimed to get the terminally stupid back into employment, the criteria apparently being the more retarded a person is, the more senior the position that they fill. As a result, there have been acres of newsprint documenting the ineptitude of this agency. Unfortunately, my dealings with these people have been going on for nearly three years, and have also proved that there are very many idiots in Government service.

Although it is a long story, in summary my ex-wife claimed for the children that were living with her, I claimed for the son who was living with me. Within two months I was paying for my kids, whereas my ex-wife refused to pay. As a result, I also stopped paying. She was not pursued for payment, I was. This went on for several months with no solution. I wrote to and met with my local MP. Nothing. So I then wrote to the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency, my local MP and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Again nothing. Finally, I wrote to the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency, my local MP and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions informing them that unless a solution was found within one week of my letter, I would be going to the press to publicise the incompetence of all of those involved, both at the CSA and at Government level, and also taking legal action for the discrimination that I had suffered as they were pursuing me but not my ex-wife.

Less than a week later, everything was sorted (possibly because the Secretary of State was new to post and wanted to stay in post), my ex-wife commenced payments and I recommenced payments direct from my wages every month. I believed that this was the last of it, and it seemed to be the case, or at least has been, for the last two years.

And then, yesterday evening, I received a call from Darren at the Department of Work and Pensions. Unfortunately, as I was in the middle of a supermarket, I was unable to speak to him. I tried to call him back when I got home, but no luck. So I tried again this morning. Although I didn't get through to Darren, I did speak to one of his colleagues in the ominous sounding 'Debt Enforcement' department.

From talking to this person, it appears that the department has recently had an audit and they wanted to know why I had reduced my payments. It appears that, although for the last two years there has been an order in place to take the money from my wages monthly, there records show that I pay monthly by sending them a cheque.

It also appears that either the Child Support Agency or my work Salaries and Wages department has screwed up (no surprise in either case), but I have no doubt that there will be some attempt to claim that it is all my fault.

Must look up who the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is............

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