Note from the editorial team...
Welcome to this our Winter edition of Directions newsletter.
The season of big jumpers, chocolates, presents and seeing relatives we have not seen all year means that Christmas is nearly upon us.
In this edition you can read about the European Council's plans to extend parental leave from three to four months, ideas about getting involved be it through volunteering or disabled sport, free at home eye tests, a new Personal Assistant support group and two great readers writes from Direct Payments users in Conwy and Carmarthenshire.
Wishing you all a very enjoyable Christmas and New Year, from all of us at The Rowan Organisation.
As far as we are aware there were no corrections to be made to the last issue of Directions. If any of our readers did spot an error, please do not hesitate to inform us. Contact details appear on page 1 and on the back cover.
The European Council have agreed to extend the existing rights for parents to take leave from three to four months per parent, per child, by 2012. Up to three of these months can be transferred from one parent to another.
Parental leave offers qualifying parents the right to take unpaid time off work to look after their child or make arrangements for their welfare.
Does your employee qualify for parental leave?
If your employee has a child aged under five, (or under 18 if their child is disabled), they may have the right to parental leave. To qualify they must be an employee and have at least one year's continuous service where they work.
They must also either be the parent:
Employment experts have predicted the changes are unlikely to be popular among UK employees because under current law there is no obligation to pay workers who are on parental leave, and nothing in this new proposal changes that. The fact that leave is unpaid means that relatively few workers take advantage of parental leave rights.
Below is a list of sporting clubs, charities and organisations that disabled people can contact and indulge their sporting side:
British Blind Sport
Phone 01926 424 247
British Deaf Sports Council Ltd
Text phone, Mincom 01473 252 210
Cerebral Palsy Sport
Cerebral Palsy Sport aims to provide opportunities for all people with cerebral palsy to take part in sporting activities at local, national and international level.
Phone 01159 257 027
Riding For The Disabled Association
Phone 0845 581 082
Reminder to all employers who have Personal Assistants on variable hours employment contracts to make sure they are taking their annual leave entitlement.
A Personal Assistant who is on a variable hours employment contract have their annual leave entitlement worked out as follows:
Add up hours worked over 13 week period, divide by 13 for average weekly hours, multiply that by 5.6, divide by 52 to get weekly entitlement, then multiply by 13 to get annual leave accrued.
If you need support with this, you can contact your payroll adviser who can work this calculation out for you.
Have you ever considered becoming a volunteer?
Through volunteering you can learn new skills, make a difference to the people living in your community, have fun, make new friends and meet interesting people.
There is something for everyone. Whether you're looking to fill a few hours at the weekend or make a major contribution to a local community group, there are many ways to volunteer.
Most volunteer roles don't require special skills or qualifications and you will be given any training you need. Some roles require certain skills but this will be stated clearly in the role description.
Any out of pocket expenses will usually be reimbursed. There is no age barrier. Everyone has something to offer no matter what age.
There are many ways to volunteer, depending on how much time you can spare. Full-time, part-time, evening and night volunteering are offered by various organisations.
Examples of just some of the ways you can volunteer are:
Many areas in the country have local volunteer bureaux where you can register.
Other useful contact details:
www.direct.gov.uk enter volunteering into the search box.
People aged over fifty, visit the 'Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme website www.csv-rsvp.org.uk or call 020 7278 6601.
Age UK www.ageuk.org.uk
0800 169 6565 or 0800 169 8787
A new service is being developed to support Personal Assistants (PAs) in Warwickshire.
It can be a time consuming and stressful process to find a PA that suits your needs so once you have a suitable PA it is important to retain them.
Some of the challenges that have been highlighted relating to the poor retention of PAs are boredom, isolation, lack of development, lack of training, no peer support and the general lack of the camaraderie found in other work places.
This new service called ‘Personal Matters' hopes to address these issues through the provision of a meeting place where we can provide support, networking, mentoring, training and supervision tailored to the needs of the PAs and their employers. We will focus on providing or sourcing any requested training.
In the future we hope to provide a pool of information for employers and PAs of available PAs for holiday and sickness cover as well as a focal point for relevant information. The facilitators have over 40 year's experience in social care and are local and national social care award winners.
The informal PA networking sessions will start on Monday evening 9th January 2012, initially at The Gap Warwick, all PAs are welcome. The networking sessions are free and refreshments will be available.
Further details are available from one of the Facilitator, Shirley Martin-Abel on 07587289186.
Visioncall is a UK wide provider of free home eye tests. Which means they come to your house.
Visioncall provide free (NHS funded) home eye tests to anyone in the UK who is disabled and finds it difficult to get around.
Visionscall say "The Visioncall home eye test plan is delivered to you in your home or care home by our highly trained and dedicated team of home visit opticians, optometrists, dispensing opticians and optical assistants, with full back-up from our experienced office staff and lab technicians. Through training and continuous development, we ensure that all our staff provide, during the home eye test, excellent customer care and outstanding product knowledge".
To find out more information on how to book your free home eye test visit the website
www.vision-call.co.uk or call them on 0845 050 1831.
The organisation and the people they work with have come to the conclusion that their old name is too complicated, and difficult to spell, understand and recall.
They feel their new name SHINE is much more attractive and memorable.
Fully spelt out - Spina Bifida - Hydrocephalus - Information - Networking - Equality spells the word SHINE. These are the key things the members feel most strongly about.
For any queries or questions about the name change call their information line on 01733 555988.
Address: 42 Park Road, Peterborough PE1 2UQ
Chris Hobson, a Direct Payments user from Conwy was recently interviewed for a short film to raise awareness about Ataxia.
Chris was first diagnosed with Ataxia aged 12. In the short film he talks about living with the condition, his experiences, outlook on life and people's perceptions of the condition.
Ataxia affects balance, coordination and speech. For most types of ataxia, the symptoms get worse over time.
Ataxia can affect people at any age. Friedreich's Ataxia is the most common form of Ataxia in children and young people.
Melissa Loucas, Senior speech and language therapist at Ataxia Centre, London, explains people with Ataxia find it challenging to cope with other people's perception of them. They feel frustrated that people are unaware of the condition which can even include Health Professionals because Ataxia is so rare.
During the film Chief Executive Sue Millman explains about the scientific research being done to help people live with the condition and find a cure.
Ataxia UK is a charity that funds scientific research into a cure, offers support and raises awareness of the condition. For more information please visit www.ataxia.org.uk
To watch the short film please logon to www.youtube.com and enter raising awareness and funds for Ataxia into the search box.
I have been a user of the Direct Payments scheme to provide me with a Personal Assistant (PA) for a number of years now. The Direct Payments (DP) scheme, for those who are not aware, works by having the money allocated for a PA (formerly called Carers) by the authority being paid direct to the user - you and I. This then allows us to choose and employ a PA of our choice.
One big plus with this is us having control of when the PA works, rather than the 'Council' Carers coming in when they can fit us in to their busy schedules. In addition the working hours can be a bit more flexible, maybe allowing a weekend trip out or something.
In my own case, as my MS has got worse, the need for a PA has become more important and because the condition varies so much from day to day my needs often vary in a similar way. Therefore, having an element of flexibility on when my PA comes in is really essential. Having said all this, the hours will of course need to fit within the hours allocated in your care package and be agreeable to your PA.
As with everything there is a bit of a 'down side'. To employ your PA, you will need someone to put in place and manage their Income Tax (PAYE), National Insurance (NI) and their Pension if required. Plus liability insurance and the like. I have been lucky in that my working life has included dealing with such things so setting it all up and the day to day stuff has been, for the most part, fairly easy. However, for most of you it will be all new. Please, don't be put off by the thought of all this book work and formality because the Rowan Organisation are there for you.
The Rowan, a charitable organisation, will take you through all the setting up stages, they will keep your PAYE and NI records, prepare pay slips, tell you what to pay and when and help you manage your PA bank account. They are an absolute mine of information all of which is simply at the end of your telephone. The Rowan publish a Newsletter periodically which keeps us up to date with changes that we should be aware of. All in all they are brilliant.
If you would like to share any aspect/experience of using your direct payments please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and title your email readers writes contribution for newsletter. Thank you and I look forward to receiving you contribution.