The digital display in our car suggested it was four and a half degrees when I set off at seven o´clock this morning. I suspect it wasn’t a great deal more than that in the bedroom either.
Seven o´clock I left the house. Seven-thirty I was outside the homestead where my little disabled friend and his family live. Eight o´clock we were outside the hospital, where the only parking space left was the one right next to the door. Result. Reversing out of it later, I understood why it had been left till last. We were there to complete the final piece of paperwork in the “kid goes to school” marathon of confetti. This is a “certificate of disability”. I thought by this stage we’d proved that he is disabled, but apparently this is the all important and final word on the subject.

Apart from being required by the school, this one is also worth money. Since birth this kid has been entitled to a state benefit, but because no-one has ever done the paperwork he has never received any. Mum never completed primary school, so paperwork’s not really her thing, and living in the back of beyond, she probably has never been told what she’s entitled to. I suspect that unofficial government policy is to hope that people don’t know what they’re entitled to. So off we went to the benefits office. This took the rest of the morning. Another unofficial government policy may be to make the process of claiming ones benefit so protracted that those who stay the course will be the ones who really need it. Nevertheless, our tedious morning has hopefully born fruit; we’ve been told that she’ll start receiving his disability benefit from July, which will make quite a difference to the family as a whole, and particularly to mum. At the moment she receives no income at all, and living where they do, without transport, little prospect of changing that, so finally she might even be a position of making some small choices for herself and my mate, her child.

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