9th June 2020
Time of Change
The COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic has been a time of change for all of us. The most poignant being continuing an isolated life whilst grieving the deaths of loved ones. Many of us have adapted to working from home, shopping with entry queues and not having grooming services. We have been being unable to enjoy the outdoors, support and close physical connection with family and friends, and our favourite recreational activities.
The pandemic has been a period of change for my life too. The beginning of the year saw me get rid of the incompetent and negligent care agency providing me with personal assistants who were incapable and abusive. The victory was not gained without a fight though. The agencies I liked from numerous of providers rated ‘Good’ by the Care Quality Commission that I interviewed were more expensive than the current arrangement. I needed to get permission from the local authority as a result. This process took several months, and, in that time, my care fiasco continued. The director of the negligent agency attempted to illegally withdraw services, which was only avoided because I was able to show that the contract between the agency and I required 3 weeks’ notice before cancelling my care. Similarly, the local authority told me that I had to show evidence that I had considered employing assistants directly. I could not prove I had done this despite the fact that I constantly reconsider the best options available to me, given that I engage with others in the disabled community with different approaches. I was only able to resolve dilemma by asking the local authority to explain under which regulations was this a requirement, as this caused a change in approach from the local authority. The request was now considered a misunderstanding, but I remain unconvinced.
The end result remains that, at the start of the lockdown, I had escaped an awful situation in which I had suffered physically and mentally. The local authority continues to ignore the potential risks to others and allows it to continue, but I have been able to move on and rebuild. My new agency has a more caring touch and manage my support swiftly and proficiently. I have enjoyed becoming familiar with the management team and I have a lot of faith in them. I genuinely believe that, for now, the worst assistance issues are behind me and I can look forward to the future.
I was trying creating change in my career during this time too. The first 5 months of my year are spent completing the Pupillage Gateway process in the hope that an opportunity will materialise to join barristers’ chambers and finish training. This year was different though. The UK was in lockdown and many application processes had online interviews. I had lost confidence in video and audio calls over the years, because I thought that the technology exacerbated my speech impairment and reduced my clarity. The prospect of fighting for my dream career though this mode was daunting. This was probably evident during my first interview. I did, however, become familiar with this interviewing approach and became much more confident using it. I enjoyed the interviews, as I always do because it’s an opportunity to discuss important issues and practice advocacy skills. I was first reserve at one of my preferred chambers, but the offer-holders accepted, and I will go through the process again next year. The time and energy spent on the process was not been wasted though. I demonstrated once again that I am good enough to be a barrister. I have also become comfortable with a resource that will be prominent in work environments well beyond the current crisis, which will be helpful for me and others.
The COVID road to discovery continued as I learned more about myself through completing my analytical report, which is part of my second master’s degree. My master’s was completed alongside the Bar Professional Training Course, which is the qualification needed by future barristers, and involved providing free legal advice and representation to clients, reflecting upon these experiences and analysing my development. Finishing and reviewing the analytical report made me realise the extent to which I had developed my skills, helped vulnerable people and demonstrated potential to be an excellent barrister with cerebral palsy. I assisted a number of people with legal questions at a community centre in Hackney and successfully represented two clients. I did not experience any communication difficulties with any of my clients. I also developed a system whereby I add information and references to my copy of skeleton arguments. This will help me mitigate my impaired manual dexterity going forward as it will reduce the number of materials. My master’s degree allowed me to demonstrate that my impairments do not disqualify me from having the potential to be an excellent barrister and provided invaluable experience.
As one door closes, another opens. I started a new job as Care and Business Development Manager at Serenity Integrated Care, which will provide opportunities to make sure disabled people are assisted properly and respectfully. The care system so often neglects disabled people and I hope I can effect change from the inside. I feel that I am with the right agency to make a difference too.
For all the suffering and forbearance, this time of crisis has been a time of positive change and I am grateful to all those who helped me. The cherry on top is that my sister, Elle, will have a baby boy in a few weeks’ time, meaning the next generation of Holts will have doubled. The future is bright.