Sunday, 19 February 2012

February position

This is a post I am not proud of and at the moment I feel quite desperate so I'm letting it out here.  I've procrastinated about writing it for fear of being seen as whiny, selfish, begging, self-pitying, accusatory etc.
A lot of emotions and none of them good.

I'm in the process of having my benefits changed, not through choice but due to the diktat of another Government minister wishing to reduce the number of disabled in the system and reduce fraud. It's been rumbling about for several years but the process is being speeded up now as per the schedule.

The only thing is that this is a deeply flawed, cynical and discriminatory process being administered by a private company employing 'health professionals' to assess claimants. The process is basically tick boxes at the end of which you pass or fail.  These 'professionals' opinions override those of your GP or specialists who actually deal with you regularly. They assess your fitness to work on the basis of one 20 minute interview and filling in a computerised form that you cannot see.  Sadly these bear little or no relevance to reality.  This has led to the current situation of terminally ill cancer patients being declared for for work and in one spectacular case a man in a coma being told he was fit to work.  So far 16 people have committed suicide as they can no longer cope with the pressures of trying to live on benefits that have been cut often by up to 50%.  These are not malingerers but with genuine diagnosed serious medical conditions.

I'm in this system and suffering badly now.  The 'assessment centre' is 10 miles away.  I have no transport so I have to rely on others or public transport to get there.  On buses (two each way) it is a minimum 90 minute journey each way.  I'm lucky in that I have a bus pass so get free transport but its still hellish.

I've now had three appointments for the assessment. First one I got over there and got turned away as they were running late.  They also said they'd tried to call me to let me know.  They hadn't.  My mobile was with me and switched on and when my landline was checked when I returned home, there hadn't been a received call on it for 3 days!

Appointment number 2, mea culpa, I had to cancel as I had no transport and was ill. So I made appointment 3 for 29th December at 11.20.  On the day, I rang to cancel as I had no transport and had a viral infection only to be advised that my benefits were likely to be stopped.  I rang them back 20 minutes later and said I would go but would be late and could they advise the centre which they agreed to do.  I went up to get the first bus.  I was waiting almost 30 minutes in the cold for the bus.  I forgot they were on the 'special' service which means basically there is no timetable.  I got there 20 minutes late and was turned away by the rude sisters behind the desk The call centre had not passed on the message and I could not leave any paperwork for them to look at. I then had to get home again and I was already feeling exhausted, cold and sick. I finally got home and collapsed into bed with the start of a viral infection that lasted three weeks.

I also got a letter telling me that as I had 'failed to turn up' I needed to explain myself to the Department of Work and Pensions by 8th January. I filled in the form and posted it back along with a letter explaining the situation and enclosing my bus tickets as proof.

There then followed silence.  Silence that has continued since then and is still continuing 6 WEEKS later.  I'm ringing them weekly to check on what is happening to little effect.  My form and letter have gone walkabout despite being in their own reply paid envelope.  I called and called about this and finally someone from processing called and I explained to them what was happening and she has noted this and passed it to the decision maker.  Still there is this ominous, pervasive silence.

I still have no new medical date, no contact from the assessors and no contact from the DWP.  I'm stuck in this vile limbo with no end in sight.  All for the sake of change for changes sake and the vilification of the weakest in society.

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