Today I went to a meeting organised by the local council and Quarriers Support Group for Carers. I don't often go to support group meetings to be honest, as usually Jack has a hospital appointment on the day.
This time, I made a special effort cos this was a meeting to discuss the possibility of unpaid carers gaining a qualification for the work they do looking after a family member. This is a pilot scheme and if it works then it will be rolled out across the UK and many more unpaid carers will benefit.
There are 8 carers, me included, who are interested in this new scheme but as it is a "pilot" scheme, there are only 3 places available! I was gutted when I heard this but a little more heartened when they said that the course can be completed in 6 months or less so as soon as 1 person finishes another can be started.
The SVQ (Scottish Vocational Qualification) assessor comes to your house and watches you in your caring role doing specific tasks ie peg feeding, bathing, dressing, communication etc and marks you. There is some written work but no essays (yipee!) and the written work is based on your everyday caring role. The best bit of all, is that the course, costing £2000 per person, is being funded by the local council so it wont cos me a damn thing.
Win win situation me thinks! So watch this space and fingers crossed that I get picked and I can finally get recognition for something that I have been doing for 12 years, unpaid.
Mind you, if I am honest, I could think of better things for the council to spend that money on! Which brings me to another snippet of good news I was given on Friday.
Two years ago, the special needs holiday play scheme and weekly clubs in Elgin were under threat because the local council had withdrawn a substantial amount of it's funding to the charity that ran them. A meeting was held and parents of the children who used this scheme were given all the relevant information and two of us, myself and a friend, Moira decided to fight it. We organised meetings with parents, local councillors, invited the local newspapers and basically highlighted the dire need for this scheme/weekly clubs and how much our children benefited from them.
As Moira was a bit more camera shy than me, it was mine and Jack's pictures that were used in all the newspapers and I was even interviewed by our local radio station - that was really nerve racking! The upshot was a meeting with councillors at Moray Council, where parents got to have their say and express their concerns. It was decided that if the charity in question could not provide the exact same service for less than half the money, then the council would take it in-house and they would run it themselves. I was adamant that if this was to happen, then we, the parents should be involved from the advising process right through to the set up.
We met every month for 9 months, hashing things out, often it was just myself, Moira and a council employee. The council wanted the charity to take on the task with the reduced money and they said they couldn't but finally at the 11th hour they agreed and the deal was signed and we had our play scheme back.
Great news all round but I had spent nearly a year fighting for a play scheme that Jack was only going to be using for a few months more, as once he was 12, he was too old for it and there was nothing else for older kids. While we were involved in the advisory part of setting up the new play scheme, I had raised the issue of raising the age group and the council were keen to look into it but when the charity took it back on, they were only willing to take on the play scheme as was. So that was that. Ya think? Yeah right!!!
We still plugged away, nipping the heads of the play scheme managers and did get a follow up in the papers but then we got tired! There is only so much you can do!
BUT this week I was told that the charity had applied for funding for a play scheme for age 12 and above. Funding that will last for hopefully 5 years and the council will financially support them too! Obviously our nipping of people's heads and constant exposure of the isolation of children with special needs has hit a nerve.
I am over the moon but I am not willing to give them a "high 5" just yet until everything is in place and it is all signed, sealed and delivered!
And Jack can finally have a social life outside of home and school cos I am pretty sure he is fed up looking at my face all day long!