Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Most Evil Department

 In April 1993, the then Conservative government unleashed their latest dogmatic idea to hit the poorest and most vulnerable in society - while at the same time saving money on the benefit and income support for the poorest, while laying down plans for tax cuts for the wealthy. Always a central plank in Conservative policy and dogma.

What they launched was called the Child Support Agency!

The reasoning behind the creation of this Government department was based around, what now appears to be flimsy, evidence that single mothers were claiming benefit for themselves and their children and that absent fathers were contributing nothing. The 'overwhelming' evidence for this has never been published and the whole idea was sold as giving single parents financial support from the absent partner. Of course, what that Government did was to give with the one hand and take it away with the other - in other words, the single parent's benefit claim was re-assessed in the light of the income from the absent parent.

However, this agency was quickly seen by divorcing parents as another, officially sanctioned body to heap humiliation and hurt on the absent parent, not matter how much that person was trying, in very difficult circumstances, to provide support and positive parenthood to their children. Vindictive ex-partners saw it as a means to add to their income without having to have their claims tested properly in law. People who really didn't need the money, used the CSA as a means of punishment to the ex-partner.

Once a claim is made - that is it! there is no assessment, no review of ability to pay - just an order to pay loaded with lots of legal threat and promise if not paid. Further humiliation can then be piled on when the requesting partner refuses any discussion with the absent partner to find an amicable means of payment. In most cases, it is done by attachment to earnings, leaving the payer embarrassed and humiliated in their place of work, where the constant feeling that people now judge you as someone who doesn't care for their children.

And what about the children. If they are old enough, they can see that they have now become financial assets to be seen as means of income and cost. The resentment that builds up with this CSA arrangement can have the result in seriously affecting the relationships the paying partner has and feels towards their children. The children feel it too. They know they are no longer important for themselves, but for what they cost and provide financially.

Finally, the effect on the absent parent - generally this is the father.

It would not be surprising if the CSA leads people to suicide, perhaps as "the final straw". The Men's Health Forum says:
"Most suicides occurred because the individual felt disconnected from their community, family and friends; they failed to adjust to social change (suggesting that this occurs during periods of economic depression); or resulted from the individual losing their personal identity and wishing to sacrifice their life for the ‘community’ (as in the case of ‘cult’ suicides). Durkheim and others have argued that the higher societal fragmentation, the higher the suicide rate. This fragmentation can take a number of forms, with the loss of a job, divorce, poor social networks and low community affiliation all highlighted as factors in suicide."
Think what this means to any separated parent, but especially one who may have lost significant contact with "his" children, has possibly had to move out of the house so that the children can live there with the mother, and may well have lost contact with about half of the friends and acquaintances. And then along comes an Agency which treats him as an "Absent Parent" and takes money off him to hand over to someone he may now hate.

I am sure that there are absent parents who need to be cajoled into paying something towards the up-keep of their children, but in the majority of cases, honest, loving parents are pursued with unrelenting vigour - even if they are already contributing, voluntarily to their children's welfare.

The way the agency is presently set up and the way it conducts it business is, quite frankly, wrong. It is, I believe, now primarily used for 'evil', selfish purposes, and even if the CSA knows this, it does nothing to mitigate against it.

The Child Support Agency is I believe, more a force of evil by the wedges it thrusts in-between already difficult family relationships, and those who use this organisation need to closely examine their motives.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Enough Of This Nonsense!

It has been some time since I last visited my blog, and what a sorry state the subject of that last post was - not that it wasn't true, but I have moved on a bit since then.

Self-perception is a strange beast, and depression is not something I thought I would ever suffer from. I've always been able to rise from the ashes, so to speak, whenever I've stumbled or had a knock back. But this has been a real humdinger, and it hasn't helped that I developed a chest infection that has left me with what the doctors say is post-viral asthma.

I can't say I'm feeling great or even close to my old self, but I am starting to see that light at the end of the tunnel in the distance. I'm seeing someone at the clinic who may yet be able to help, but I'm too sure at the moment as her approach seems very "clinical", but the fact that I've managed to "carry on" and keep going seems to be having the most benefit.

What I'm looking forward to is less self-examination and more of the old fire that allowed me to have a go at anyone who gets my goat. The problem has been that no-one - not even Bush or Brown, - has managed to do this for me - and I need to be ready as there is another US Election on the way to get my teeth into.

This weekend, I intend to get my boots on and start walking again - something I haven't done properly for some time, except for the 15-mile Wirral Coastal Walk back in May. Maybe some exercise with help to lift the spirits. Moreover, there are some good pubs that are missing me!

P.S. Couldn't find a picture to go with this post, hence no colour

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Not Feeling Good!

Over the last six months, or so, such a lot has happened that at times I just haven't seemed to have the time to catch my breath.

However, over the last three months, I've been noticing some rather alarming symptoms and thoughts developing. I seem to feel tired all the time, my heart seems to race, I can feel my head throbbing in time with my heartbeat, my tinnitus is louder than ever before and I get really anxious prior to going to work. I feel generally run down and listless. I've not been for many of my usual walks or bike rides, I've not done much in the garden, and I'm putting on weight.

The other week, I was talking to one of my ex-colleagues from my previous place of work which has now closed down, and she was describing similar symptoms and feelings and I've come to the conclusion that I am depressed as a result of losing my job. I miss the people I worked alongside, many of whom became friends, and a place where, for five years, I was very happy - poorly paid, but happy. It had affected this colleague to the point where she felt the need to consult a counsellor. There is a great sense of mourning, which, on the face of it seems ridiculous, but is non-the-less real. There have been times when I felt I had lost my extended family.

Leaving there was a big wrench, and although I was lucky enough to be able to go straight into a new job, the stress of the administration and redundancy seems to have caught up with me. Most days, I feel anxious about going into work - though once I'm there, everything seems to go OK, - and I feel snappy and have to work very hard at being as human as possible.

I'm not sure where I go from here, but I have made an appointment with the doctor, and perhaps we can work out a strategy - I don't really want to take tablets if at all possible. I need to feel re-energised and positive again. Find the motivation to get off my backside and start being active. But most of all, I want to feel good about going into work and living my life!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Update

Can't think of a snappier title than that at the moment, though it may change later.

Well, we've just got through Easter - very early this year and I think that the formula worked out by the Alexandrian or Coptic church in the 5th Century - the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox doesn't suit the modern age!

This year, it has been a particularly busy time with Christine's Mum finally moving out of the family home - a three story house is a bit large for one person! At present, she is staying with Christine's brother as she has yet to buy somewhere new, however she has been out and about to look, at this stage, localities and the type and cost of properties and it seems an area to the west of Wigan, - Orrell, is favourite at the moment.

However, our house is now full of 'stuff' and I've no idea where it is all going to go. I'm leaving it very much to Christine to sort out as much of it includes memories of her Dad which are important.

Jayne has had a pretty nasty bug which has kept her off school for the two weeks prior to Easter, and she still has a touch of catarrh. She spent that time with Grandparents - which, of course, she loved. However, she did pull her weight in helping her Nan to move out, and to all accounts, never stopped talking! However, it did give us time to re-decorate her room which turned out to be a bigger job than first thought as we had to replace all the plaster work. Anyway, it is now done and looks very nice - if a bit pink!

Next term is an important time for Jayne as she takes her Stage 2 SAT's and finally leaves Primary school to join her sister at Secondary school. A time of great pressure and change for our youngest.

Bethen is growing up all the time - very much the young lady at the moment, and being a teenage girl, driving me and Christine up the wall! However, she really is a lovely person - so everyone else tells us! She spent a week up in the Lakes with her long-time friend and her family. Seems she had a good time - I base that on the fact that when asked, her grunts and single word answers had a definite positive intonation. However, she did say that the tops of the fells were covered in snow which made them look really pretty - I wish I had been up there.

The ramifications of being made redundant from my last job are still making themselves felt. So far, I've not received a penny in redundancy as no-one is taking responsibility for it and so we are going to an Employment Tribunal to sort it out. Could be another two to three months before it's sorted, so my new bike is having to wait a little longer. It really is a pain in the neck!

However, last night I met up with a number of people from the old job. My colleague and friend got married and we all met up at the party afterwards. Most people have managed to get new employment and are settling down to a new chapter in their lives, others are about to start and were looking particularly nervous about it. However, the overriding feeling seemed to be one of relief that the old company was finally dead and buried. We all had a great time, and we've set ourselves up as a group on one of the social networking sites so hopefully we'll be able to keep in touch.

Spring is now with us and I am looking forward to some decent weather as so far most weekends have been a bit of a washout (literally) and I've not been able to get out and about much. Our local canal has yet to feel the passing of my cycle tyres and must be feeling a little neglected. Our local hill, Rivington Pike and Winter Hill, has not faired much better with only a couple of half-decent walks in the past couple of months. I'm really getting serious itchy feet.

The weather has been awful - strong winds and lots of rain, very depressing and the garden is also looking a bit bedraggled. Something I'm going to have to turn my attention to shortly.

Next weekend, we are going to a Flickr Wirral meet - the third one so far. True to form, the meeting will take place in a pub, this time the Wheatsheaf Inn in Raby followed by a wander down to Ness Gardens if the weather is OK, otherwise, we'll have to stay in the pub and drink more beer. The Flickr Wirral group has to be one of the most active, anarchic and fun groups on the site. Whenever a discussion group starts, there is no way it will ever stay on topic for very long. I feel it reflects the innate Wirralian personality. When you live on a peninsula it is very easy to ignore the rest of the world and develop your own style and life.

Not much else to say at the moment. Still very busy at work with a lot to learn, but I feel I'm getting a handle on it now. When I get home, I'm very tired and ready to just flop and chill out. Hopefully, with the longer days, I'll be a little more active.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Failed Already

So much for New Year resolutions and good intentions. That didn't last long, did it? To all, and in particular Jen, my apologies for my laziness and lack of effort. No promises, but I hope to be a little better in the future.

In many respects, life has been running at about 100 mph, particularly with the new job. In terms of learning curve, climbing Everest would be easy in comparison.

It looks like the new job is going to be really good and challenging. There is an awful lot to learn, but I'm fast becoming an expert on left hand shower baths with unitary mixer units and soft close toilet seats - yes, I'm in the bathroom suite business, and it is a lot more comples that I thought.

But more, we are also the primary UK bathroom delivery company, so I am also expected to know how freight transportation and route planning is worked out. All in all, I think this is a job that I can really get my teeth into, leaving very little time for getting bored.

Outside of work, I've turned 55 (whoopee!) half a stone heavier (that's 7 lbs in US weight) than I was before Christmas, and I need to get started to lose it and get back some fitness. Last week I did our local hill, Rivington Pike, and was quite pleased at the reletive ease I had getting up it, but my main goal for this year is walking a few more of the fells in the Lake District. I really want to do the Langdale Pikes (mainly because there is a great pub at the end of it) and one of the big three; Skiddaw, Scarfell Pike or Helvelyn. Cumbria has to be, to my mind, one of the prettiest places in the UK with opportunities for all people to enjoy the countryside, whatever their age or ability.

Finally, still waiting for my redundancy payment so I can start looking for a new bike. Lots of ideas for what I want, but in the end, it will depend on price.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Happy New Year

New Year and a new job - what a combination!

Before going any further, I would sincerely wish all my visitors and their families the best of all years and that all good things you deserve are delivered.

As for me, I see that I have been a little tardy in my posts over recent weeks, much of that due to the rapidly changing and uncertainties that preceded Christmas and that the fact that I didn't have much energy for anything else. I did, however, try to keep up with the blogs I normally visit, and keep myself up to date with what is going on.

My resolution is to attempt to up my posts - hopefully with something interesting, novel, quirky and humourous.

With the good news that I had a new job to go to in the New Year, meant that Christmas was a more relaxed affair that it was previously shaping up to be. For obvious reasons, Father Christmas had to be a little mean this year, though the girls did get an ipod nano in the sack - so all was not lost!

Christine was working Christmas Day and Boxing Day, which meant our Christmas dinner was on the Thursday. An excellent quality leg of pork, roasted with cox's orange pippin apples and rosemary and black pepper marinade. I've finally cracked the secret to good crackling, and this didn't disappoint. The roast potatoes were cooked with fresh rosemary and garlic and the gravy was made from the juices from the meat supplemented with a strong Somerset cider. The veg, of course, consisted of carrots and sprouts. Didn't do much with them - maybe next year! We finished off the meal with a traditional Christmas pudding. Unlike last year, this was shop bought - but a good one none the less, and Christine and Bethen had a good go at burning the house down with the brandy!

New Year was celebrated with friends, though we did have to leave a little early as Christine was on duty on New Year's day at 7:30 in the morning! She stayed relatively sober - I didn't!

Finally, on January 3rd, I started my new job. Always an odd feeling starting at a new place. Lots of nerves and anxiety. Hoping that I can live up to the promises made in the interview. Also hoping that the first impression is a good one, and that I do nothing that leaves a lasting negative impression. Well I think I managed to do that OK. Lots to learn and take on board. New systems and procedures and, of course, lots of new faces to get to know. Once I get my feet under the table, I think I'm going to enjoy this job.

The only thing to make it perfect for me will be a Suzuki Bandit 1200 - but if not, a 650 will do instead, and I'm hoping the redundancy cheque, when it comes through, will sort out that wish.

Friday, December 14, 2007

New Year, New Job

The last month has been one of the most difficult times I've had for a long time. The company I work for went into Administration which immediately sent alarm bells ringing about my long-term future. Administration then became Receivership which confirmed the company was in a winding-down process and that eventually, I would lose my job.

On top of that, I lost my Father-in-Law who died suddenly and with no prior warning, from a heart attack which has been devastating for my wife, and extremely sad for me to lose someone I greatly respected.

All in all, it was not a great prospect for a good Christmas.

However, I have now been offered a job in a new firm, and, from what I was able to gather from the interview, would be perfect for me. A company not too large so as not to know everybody, but not too small that would be in immediate difficulty if the economic winds of change should blow.

I start on the 3rd January 2008. A far better Christmas present than I was expecting.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Soldier's Lot


Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday which, for once, actually fell on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and while I was standing at Aspull War Memorial my mind began to wander and I started to think about the role of the soldier in a modern western democracy.


What is the purpose of the military?


First and foremost, defense of the Realm; to repel invasion and ensure that the UK's citizen's are free to follow their dreams.


The second, to buy the time for politicians to get their acts together, find reason and settle their differences diplomatically and responsibly. The military pay for that luxury of time with their lives, and at present it feels it is being squandered and treated with disdain.


The reality is that any conflict is ended once people of good intent sit down and start talking to each other. They may hate everything their opposite may stand for, but by talking, at least there is the possibility of understanding, and from understanding comes peace.


All it requires are the people of good faith to start this process, and until they are found, young men and women will continue to die and be maimed and hold the line, buying in the only way they know, the time for the rest of us to get it together.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rememberance Sunday


For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon (1914)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Administration - The Latest

A meeting on Friday provided some basis for optimism when the Administrators gave an update on the situation.

There is one company they are in negotiation with who wants to purchase the company as a going concern. Obviously, they couldn't give details, but I suspect it will be the same wazzocks that got us into this mess in the first place.

Obviously, everyone at work is very tense and concerned, and a lot of 'gallows' humor is doing the rounds. As a manager, I'm finding it totally exhausting, trying to remain positive and to keep my team's spirits up.

Working in customer services, also means I have our customers to deal with and explain to them that refunds can't be processed at the moment. The last week has been exceptionally hard work, particularly emotionally, and I never want to be in a similar position again.

According to the Administrators, we should know the final position within a couple of weeks. I hope so, because I'm not sure how much of this I can take!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Administration

Came back from holiday last week to be informed that the company I work for had gone into Voluntary Administration. This means that the day to day activity of the company is in the hands of administrators, and that the company is being prepared for sale.


The future is looking very uncertain at the moment, and not a little depressing. Obviously, I've now started looking for a new job, just in case, but the administrators are hoping to sell it as a going concern.


Not much to cheer about, however, I should know more about where the company stands by Friday.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Red Sox, Game 2 - Win

The Sox won their second match in the World Series to go 2 games to 0 up with three to go. Now the location moves to Denver and Colorado's home ground.

Fingers crossed that the Sox hold their nerve and win the one remaining match to secure overall victory.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Red Sox, Game 1 - Win

First game of the season and Sox thrash what appears to be a woefully unprepared. Josh Beckett ripped the heart out of the Colorado offense while Dustin Pedroia kicked it off for the Sox with a homer in the first innings.

See, I sound like a life-long fan now! Anyway, good luck to the Soxs for tonight.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Sox Go Marching On

My first season supporting the Boston Red Sox is turning out to be a bit of a success and is providing some lift to a bit of a deflated supporter of English sport.

After England rugby and Lewis Hamilton came second in their respective competitions, it was a moment of cheer when I read that the Sox have made it through to meet Colorado in the World Series.

Well done and good luck.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Game Too Far - England Lose

After yet another bruising encounter, England's men of Oak just couldn't do it one more time and beat South Africa to retain the Webb Ellis Trophy - the World Cup.

Mind you, they really gave it a go and Did not allow South Africa to get out of sight. The final score of 15 - 6 accurately, in my opinion, the difference between the two teams.When it really mattered, England were just lacking in some key areas, and South Africa made us pay for a couple of early mistakes.

But what disappointment. The disallowed try, the drop-goals that didn't go over - so many if only's, but one thing is certain, those men can hold their heads up high with pride, both at what they have achieved during the World Cup, but more importantly, with the manner of the way they turned their campaign around. After the defeat to South Africa in the group matches, when South Africa scored 36 unanswered points against them, The England team dug deep and came out fighting. Whatever their obvious deficiencies (lack of ability to score trys) they more than made up for it in heart and determination.

Never pretty, it was so ugly it was beautiful!

Well done South Africa, you played well and deserved to win. England, I am proud of you.


Finally, the Boston Red Sox have pulled it around and thrashed Cleveland in the penultimate game of the play-offs. One game to go and it's even stevens. Why can't I support a team that is predictable?