The appointment with the death squads has arrived

I am kinda numb right now. On Saturday I got the letter I had been dreading since June. The date and time to go for a Work Capacity Assessment.

Letter from Atos with date for WCA

This is the test which the Government pays a French IT company £100m a year to administer and is known to be flawed. Thousands of people have already died waiting for the assessment or after being found fit for work. People who have terminal cancer, heart disease, even a man in a coma have been found fit for work.

This is the way I see it. Whilst I might be able to work, doesn’t mean that anyone actually wants to employ me. The biggest difficulty I have is that previous jobs have failed because I did not receive help from my employers which I am entitled to under the equality act. My last contract at the Olympic Games went south despite my attempts to ask for help, they citied that they could not be flexible with me because LOCOG was not being flexible with them.

Employment law in the UK is not sufficiently tough enough to guarantee employment for every disabled person who wants to work. Although it is technically illegal to use disability as a reason not to hire someone, they will find a way not to hire you. Even if you are up front and honest with them, getting the right help once you have a job is still difficult. So is it not surprising that I have worked 3 jobs since 2010, each one lasting no more than 3 months.

Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) and before it Incapacity Benefit have been my safety net when things have broken down, when I did not have the energy to go to work any longer, when I could not face the people I worked with. But now its all going to be taken away, because I am pretty sure that they will find me fit for work, possible not even eligible to ESA; despite me having a doctors note to the contrary.

What I really need is help, to make them realise that I am disabled, that I need help and that unless an employer is willing to help me out, then I cannot work.

If you or anyone you know is able to help, please let me know. You can leave a comment or email: I am also on twitter: @nerd8192

Do recruiters actually read my CV?

So today I got an email from a recruiter, about a job they are trying to fill:

Dear Seth,

My client based in Kent are looking for a 2nd/3rd Line Engineer for an initial 6 month contract based within the public sector paying up to £180 per day.

The successful candidate will be responsible for analysing complex and inter-linked IT system / NPfIT issues (e.g. hardware, networking, system etc.) and ensuring that they are resolved effectively.

You will be required to analyse and assess GP Practice staff IT requirements and ensure that hardware and software are appropriately configured.

The post holder will need to demonstrate specialist theoretical and practical knowledge and experience in the following areas:

· Windows NT/2000/2003/2008/2008R2 server;

· Microsoft Server virtualization

· Microsoft Windows (95/98/2000/XP/Vista/7 etc.);

· Microsoft Office products including Outlook and Exchange;

· Anti-Virus software;

· LAN’s, WAN’s, networking protocols, routers, bridges and switches.

· VOIP LAN management

· VOIP Server virtualization

Please send me you CV ASAP if you are available to interview immediately and start within a week.

With regards,

Great, eh? Someone wants to pay me £180/day to do all that cool stuff? [£180/day equates to more than £46,000/year] Well hold on just a second there, because if you haven’t ever been paid that much or ever done that level of job in IT, you can hardly expect to jump straight into that level of salary. Even if you do have some experience in all of those areas.

So really its not fair, its a bit like dangling a lolly-pop in front of a kid and then taking it away saying “come back when you’re 21”. I would like a job, but I would like to keep that job, so trying too hard and promising things I can’t do is probably just going to get me right back to where I am now, feeling depressed and miserable because I have no money and no prospects. I am good at what I do, but I can’t seem to convince anyone else about that…

Some updates [September 2012]

Its been a while since I blogged, I have been busy! In the end I moved house at the beginning of August, yep, right in the middle of the Olympics! I now live in a basement flat on one of Hackney’s busiest streets. However, in trying to find a landlord who would accept housing benefit, I had to lower my standards a little bit.

Did I say a little bit? Well, who needs natural light in their bedroom, bathroom or kitchen, eh?! Who needs a kitchen that is actually usable?! Who needs decent sound insulation between you and the shop above eh?!

To tell you the truth all these things are driving me crazy… it started off when my cooker got condemned by the gas inspector. At least I got a new cooker, right? Well that then lead me to discover that the kitchen cabinets were rotting, which lead me to discover that the wall between the kitchen and the bathroom is damp…

I have been offered new kitchen cabinets, if I make the next rent payment at the end of the month on time! But to be honest, there would be little point in putting them in if they won’t last 5 minutes because of the damp. And not much point in doing the kitchen up if the ceiling needs to be replaced to properly soundproof the flat from the shop above, because all that is between me and them is a very thin layer of plasterboard. If someone sat down on the floor up there and farted, I am pretty sure it would make my walls rattle…

But what choice do I have eh? Here is a man who takes my £240 a week housing benefit and gives me somewhere to live. At least I have a roof over my head, unlike the homeless man camped out on the bench on the street outside.

Why should I leave London [just because I don’t have a job]?

So there has been a lot of talk recently about “social cleansing” due to caps on Housing Benefit, mostly for big families. However, my problem is much simpler than that: No landlord wants me *because* I am on Housing Benefit. Despite the fact of an almost guaranteed £240/week rent for the Inner East London area.

I moved to London 2 years ago, because I wanted to be where the jobs are. I didn’t have a job when I got here, but I was lucky in that I was moving with a house-mate who has a job and the agent was understanding. In that time, I have never not been able to pay the rent, often paying it before it was due.

London may be a crowded, noisy place, but it does have certain advantages to other places in the ‘provinces’ of the UK:

Better public transport: one of the few places where there are buses all night, every night connecting most parts of the city. Plus the tube, trains, etc…

Better healthcare: well this one is kinda arguable, but coming to London has meant that I could get an Insulin pump for my Diabetes, no NHS trusts in other areas that I lived where prepared to consider me for that. The Insulin pump has made all the difference and will probably save me from going blind and loosing toes. When I am depressed I often forget about my Diabetes and before the pump I often went days, sometimes weeks without injecting insulin. The pump is with me all the time, even if I forget to give myself insulin for a meal, its still giving me a small amount of insulin all the time.

More choice: London has more cinemas than anywhere else, more shops than anywhere else. Arguably (as long as you have money) you can never be bored. I have been subscribing to the Cineworld Unlimited scheme for over a year now and I am sure this has saved me money in that I can watch unlimited films for £14.99 a month. I also have the advantage of two different Cineworld cinemas to go to within in easy travelling distance from my house. When you have no friends nearby and often a need for escapism to take you aware from the madness in your head, the cinema is your friend…

I realise that I need to take some time to fix the parts of my brain that cause me issues in jobs, that mean I can’t stick jobs for very long and that when I loose a job I tend have some kind of catastrophic breakdown, often involving a suicide attempt; but as long as I am here there are jobs available in areas requiring skills that I have.

So why should I go back to some backwater with limited job prospects, one bus every 2hrs and nothing much to do of an evening…? Just because David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith say so? No I don’t think so…

First week at a new job

So for the first time since January I am working again. This is a bit tricky since I had become quite accustomed to not doing a great deal and sleeping late! So far the job is going OK, although because I work for such a big organisation who have taken on an awful lot of people for a certain event later this year, there is a lot of time sitting around not doing very much stuff and often sharing computers because there are more people than computers. I have realised, as I have many times that I do not cope well with boredom. It is difficult for me to “look busy”, as I am often too distracted by what other people might be doing or very poor at finding things to do other than chatting to people on facebook.

I have had one slip up so far, I didn’t go to work on Thursday. I suppose it was an impulsive moment, not enough sleep and not enough productive things to do at work the day prior had caused me to think too much about those less fortunate than myself and the government, and as usual, get annoyed and frustrated on their behalf. However, I did not harm myself and I did not run off to another country. I managed to email one of my bosses and found out in the process that he has a son with Aspergers.

Today was easier, the day was dominated by boxing up hardware that was on test in order to transport it to a live location. It didn’t take long, but at least I have a fair idea of what should be in which box now and the best ways to pack it up. All the hardware must be locked down with K-Locks, the most annoying things are these little eyelets which fit into a special hole on the back of the monitor and the system unit, in order for a steel cable to be threaded through and then looped around something immovable. Being very small (less than an inch square), its easy for them to get lost…

Hopefully next week I will get to go to said live venue and box this kit, set it up, etc.. it will be good to get out of the office for a bit.

The other part of today was scenario training… what should we do when x or y happens. The biggest issue was many people over-thinking the situation. You have two choices in this deployment if things go wrong – re-image the machine (akin to re-installing windows, but a lot faster) or replace the machine. I guess it makes things easier, but there is a part of me that says “I want to know why that broke” – I believe that person is probably stuck in the 1990’s-early 2000’s!

So now a weekend, a small change to sleep later, but not much of a chance as I have work to do for Open University courses due towards the end of May. Right now I am really really tired, so I shall be off to bed soon!

Making Changes

I have spent the last couple of days trying to update my site and bring it a bit more into the 21st century! The old home page used hard coded, hand written HTML and was kinda old and sad looking. For some of the other websites I host here, I have been trying to get them to move away from static HTML pages (most of them can’t code) and towards CMS systems (such as Drupal or WordPress). So I wanted to try my own site with Drupal, I had quite a nice site worked out with it, but then there was the snag, how to import seven years worth of blog posts from a hosted WordPress installation? I tried my hardest to import them into Drupal, but it didn’t even get close to working.

So I decided the best way was to go back to WordPress, but use it as more than just a blog. So I created a new wordpress from scratch and then imported my old blog entries into it. There are a few things I like better in drupal – its easier to put in quick link pages (eg. rather than and the drush system is pretty good. But at the end of the day I wasn’t really willing to throw away all those blogs.

What I have now is WordPress, with a few static pages and then a ‘Blog’ page which is the archive of all my blog posts. I hope you enjoy the new look!

What to do next?

As some of you might know I have recently been offered medication as treatment for my ADHD. This is kinda the answer to the requests for help that have often dominated this blog, sometimes in a rather graphic way, including this post, this post, this post and this post.

I was originally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD aged 17, nearly every time I have asked for help from mental healthcare professionals the Asperger’s Syndrome has dominated the conversations with little attention paid to the ADHD. When I was at school this wasn’t picked up because (a) it was the early 1990’s and nothing much was known about Asperger’s other than classical Autism and (b) I was rowdy, but generally a good student. You could often describe me as “the class clown”, I had my good days and bad days, but in the subjects I was good at I did want to learn.

In the UK and especially within the NHS, the idea that ADHD can exist in adults is often considered as nonsense. ADHD is a childhood disorder and ends when children grow up, Ritalin the main drug used to treat it, isn’t even officially licensed for use in adults; so the idea that someone could go through their childhood without being diagnosed with ADHD and then expect treatment as an adult is preposterous! I have seen at least 5 psychiatrists, probably more who have told me this and therefore refused to even consider treating me or referring me to someone who could help – despite there being a specialist clinic at the Maudsley Hospital in South London.

So last week I was amazed when I went to see Dr Trevor Turner a psychiatrist with East London NHS Trust who within a 30 minute appointment confirmed the ADHD diagnosis and then agreed to write to my GP asking him to prescribe Ritalin to me. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, I never thought it would be so easy. At present I am waiting for Dr Turner’s letter to get to my GP, so I haven’t taken the medication yet.

The question is, after 17 years of dropping out of courses, jobs and generally being depressed and thinking things would never get better, if the Ritalin works and I get my concentration back, what do I do? The worst times started when I realised I couldn’t finish the university course I started in 2005, and although I tried again twice after that it never quite worked out, mostly because I couldn’t concentrate to get the work done.

So, do I go back to University? I am thinking that if things have improved by September then I might enrol on an Access to HE course (which I did try once before, but gave up on) at a local college in East London. If that works out at least I will have completed something since I was 16!

Of course I could be completely wrong – even with the drugs I might be not able to do it. I dunno, the trouble is that I am 31 now and not getting any younger. Do I want to loose another 4 years of my life?! I wish I had a time machine…

So things are getting better and I hope they will continue to do so, even if no-one wants to give me a job at the moment!

Fixing problems in WordPress

So for a while now I have had this problem that whenever I go to my blog’s home page the browser tries to download the PHP file rather than the server turning that PHP code into the blog. I was thinking that it must be something wrong with a content-type setting, but everything seemed fine. Then I discovered this in /etc/apache2/mods-available/php5.conf:

<IfModule mod_userdir.c>
<Directory /home/*/public_html>
php_admin_value engine Off

What that actually means is that if the user home directory module is loaded and the page is being loaded from the user’s home directory (that’s the ~seth bit), then TURN OFF PHP!

So you can see why it wasn’t working. I assume that in some recent update to Apache or PHP there is some security concern that has caused a paranoid code maintainer to put in this draconian setting. Once I had commented that out, it was fine.


Then I needed to update to WordPress 3.1, that went fine as I have done it many times before. But then when I tried to load the homepage again, it was blank – the so called “White Screen of Death”!

I fiddled around with a few things that people had suggested – turning off plugins, changing themes, but none of them worked. What I decided to do was to start from scratch and not use my old wp-config.php. Once I opened up the new version of wp-config-sample.php I realised that there were a lot of things my old file (probably from WP 1.x) didn’t have in it. So I changed my database password and then put in my settings. Once I had done this, everything worked fine!


Living in London

So I am now living in London with my old friend Ben A’Lee in a nice flat in Hackney, which isn’t the murders and rapist playground that people imagine. Hackney is a pretty up and coming place these days, just at the end of our road is the north-west corner of the Olympic Park and we can see the media/press centre being built from our window! I have gotten to know the area quite well and apart from free cash machines being a 20 minute walk away, all is good.

Last week I was quite shocked when someone actually offered me a job! Its been so long (15 months or so) since I have worked that I had really forgotten what it was like to be able to get work! I shall be working for a company called “Samvo” who provide online gambling services. They are very big in the Far East apparently, but most things are run from London. It will be a combination of Windows and Linux Systems Administration and I am quite looking forward to starting on 23/08/2010. My only issue is that my commute (the job is in West London) is about 1hr each way, although I guess that is London for you! Formerly prospective employers in the North West didn’t want to know if I told them I had no car or that it would take me an hour on the train to get to their office, so just shows you how things are different here.

I have just spent about 2hrs trying to migrate my lighttpd configuration back to apache, mostly because there are quite a few things you can’t do with lighttpd… If you are trying to get things working, make sure that your browsers cache isn’t caching your fails, otherwise things will take you twice as long – including firefox caching the fact that its being sent php before its been processed and therefore trying to download it!

Well I think I should try to sleep for a bit, got to get up in 2hrs to go to Royal London Hospital and hopefully have the rest of my tooth removed!

Stuff I like to do and do well!

So tonight a friend of mine brought over 2 Dell Servers that weren’t working. Although they turned on, there was no video and just the flashing amber “something is wrong” light!

Click on pics to show larger version…

(Stripped down Server)

After stripping both down to the motherboard I find that both had a mis-seated CPU, with the CPU coming out with the heatsink (even though the retention mechanism was locked!). So I clean the gunk off the CPU’s, re-gunk, put it all back together et voila 2 working servers.

(Intel Xenon CPU Stuck to Heatsink!)

(YAY! It boots!)

The thing is, even though I started doing this at 11:00pm and didn’t finish until 3am, even though the noise of them running (still installing operating systems) is so loud I can hear it in the next room, even though I knew there was going to be no payment for this job… I still loved it and put my best into it.

(My desk piled with servers!)

So working with hardware is what I love, I just need to find a job where there isn’t too much pressure and I don’t have too much responsibility. Any offers?