The sun was absolutely glorious – hot enough to revel in the sensation of warm honey being poured over my body without being so hot as to make the sand scalding to walk on with bare feet. Tegan and Jake were frolicking in the foam whilst seagulls bickered overhead, all hoping we’d have more scraps than just the few hot chips they’d managed to scavenge out of our hands as we ate. We did, but I’d wrapped them up again to avoid the ‘beach chickens’ from swooping down and taking the rest whilst we weren’t watching. We might want more of them later.

I sighed with satisfaction and repositioned myself on my towel. We were wagging. My two youngest attended a private school that finished a week before Shianna’s for Christmas holidays and I always tried to do things with them in that week that were often too difficult if Shianna was with us. On the beach in blazing sunshine was a rare treat. We all had olive skin. Shianna didn’t.

My mobile phone interrupted my peace. I fumbled for it with resignation. I didn’t give out my number to many people so whoever was trying to contact me was someone that I allowed into my world.

“Hello, Kerry? This is Tanya from Disability Service. How are you?”

“Yeah good thanks. How can I help?”

“I have your application for a ramp to be built to replace the three steps at the back of your house,” she said, “and you’ve been successful!” she finished triumphantly.

‘Shit’ I thought. Tanya had pestered me so much about submitting the damned thing she’d worn me down and I’d completed the arduous task just to shut her up. The application had been 45 pages long, required a visit to a medical practitioner to verify Shianna’s disability wouldn’t suddenly rectify itself any time soon, a section for the school nurse to sign off as well as all the other documents I had to attach as evidence Shianna even existed.

So far there had already been two meetings at the office and one at my home. The home visit had consisted of three people attending to ensure:-

a) I had a disabled child. (That she was in their system and medical evidence had already had to be submitted almost yearly seemed to be irrelevant).

b) My house was safe for a staff member to enter. (Oh roll the eyes! A mat not secured to the floor with double sided tape was a dangerous hazard according to their policies).

c) No shenanigans of nepotism was occurring with public monies. (Each could back up the other if such a question was asked).

“Oh that’s good” I replied cautiously.

“Yeah!” she exclaimed. “Now the process is this. You’ll need to get three quotes from three separate registered builders, and an Occupation Therapist (OT) will need to be present at the same time so they can guide the builder on what needs to be done……..”

“OT present?” I interrupted doubtfully. “Is this a departmental OT or one I have to book privately?”

“We do have our own OT” she replied apologetically, “but she is booked about seven months in advance so it might pay you to engage one privately……”

‘Jesus!’ I thought. ‘And how much will THAT cost?’

“Does it have to be a registered builder?” I asked. “Can it just be a registered carpenter?”

“No” she intoned. “Now, if the quotes are under $1000 you can go to (let’s just call it) organisation

A. If the quote is between $1000 and $1500 you can contact organisation B, and if the quote is between $1500 and $3000 you contact organisation C. If it’s over $3000 you contact organisation B and apply for further funding with Disability Services”. There was an expectant pause, no doubt waiting for my excitement to match the level of hers.

“Do you know how hard it is for a builder to turn up at a specified time?” I asked. “If I have to engage an OT privately I’m sure there will be several times where I’ll have wasted my money”.

“Yes, well, that can be an issue” she demurred, “but if they want the job they’ll turn up”

“Are you joking?” I asked incredulously. “A registered builder builds whole HOUSES and a $3000 job

is just a pain in the arse for them!” I rolled over to lean on my elbows and gaze at the trees lining the sand at the backyard of the lucky occupants. The day seemed to have darkened a fraction.

“So what do you say Kerry?”

Irritation at the ridiculous hoops required overwhelmed me. If she was waiting for me to yell out a whoop of joy I wasn’t going to oblige. “See that application in front of you Tanya?”

“Yes” she replied expectantly.

“Throw it in the bin. As a matter of fact, rip it up first and THEN throw it in the bin”.

I could almost hear the recoil. She hadn’t expected my response. “But why?”

“Because the hoops you want me to jump through to have three steps replaced by a ramp I don’t even really want are too ridiculous to contemplate. In the real world it is impossible to organise three builders to turn up with an OT present at exactly the same time for an application that may or may not be passed if it goes over budget. I don’t think a registered builder would even bother to turn up. I’m not going to do it”.

“But……it’s been granted”, she said with perplexity.

“Throw it in the bin” I repeated. “And don’t’ contact me again about any more applications. They’re usually refused even after being pestered by your department because the response is usually ‘oh sorry, funding has actually already run out already for this year’. It’s a pattern that has happened three years in a row”.

“I’ll give you time to reconsider…..” she said, leaving the statement hanging.

“Throw it in the bin” I replied resolutely, and hung up.

‘God!’ I fumed. ‘No wonder the funding runs out so quickly [usually between 01 July and mid-August]. Those bastards just get us to fill in these forms to keep themselves busy. Looks good on monthly reports for local funding demand! The whole lot just gets chewed up in administration’.