obscuritan: (corpseparty)
[personal profile] obscuritan
So I was meant to be going to an assessment on Wednesday. It was going to be the same test as back when I first signed onto Incapacity benefits, and I was shitting bricks about it. I resented the test last time (I'll go into why after the cut) and since I'm between houses I had to do this in a town I'm not familiar with. But I got a call this morning to say that there wasn't anyone to do the assessment so I would be contacted at some point to be told how may weeks I would have to wait for my next one. Most likely once I've moved into my new place in a different county. But what exactly am I stressing about?

Well firstly you fill out a form a fortnight beforehand, explaining what's wrong with you. They give the same form to people regardless of whether they're physically or mentally disabled, so half of it is going through page after page of "yes I can walk, yes I can lift my arms, no I don't have epilepsy, no I don't soil myself" and so on, or vice verca.
You then go to a meeting with a consultant, who hopefully has some medical experience but nothing I've seen guarantees that. They then ask you all the same questions you answered on the form in the hopes that they can double-jeopardy you, as well as a bunch of other questions ranging from the innocuous to completely unrelated. All this gets fed into a "yes/no/maybe" computer programme which then gives you points for how disabled you are: 15 or more and you pass.

Yeah, that last one's the real kicker. That's the one that's resulted in people who can't stand up for their back problems scoring zero points. Remember when I said they "hopefully" have medical experience? That's because they are in fact an outside consultancy group who drop clangers like claiming one man's degenerative eye condition "would be expected to improve with time and appropriate treatment". Should you be turned down you can appeal, and even though most of the appeals are successful all that entitles you to is... another identical assessment. See, at the heart of all this the test is meant to be based around what you can do as opposed to what you can't. So if they ask you if you if you watch Eastenders and you say yes, that goes into the record as "You can sit in a chair and focus on one thing for 30 minutes".

Here's a firsthand example from my previous assessment. About halfway through I became concerned that the consultant might be asking me one thing and assessing me on another. See above. She offered to let me see what she was typing, and I took her up on it. I had told her my reason, and at an earlier point had mentioned what my (then) therapist had called my "self-critical dialogue", IE doing yourself down all the time. Weeks later I read the transcript I had asked for and this got entered into the record as "patient insisted on reading what I had written, as the voices in his head were telling him I was lying to him." Boy, I must have had a worse time of it than I'd thought, since I'd somehow developed schitzophrenia over the course of an hour.

Our current government has labelled ours a "sick-note culture", convinced that we're all scroungers who are simpy "work-shy". And you know what? Your government and the media call you a scrounger often enough, you really feel like it. I'm in the same boat as people who have to take shopping lists of drugs to stop them mutilating themselves, people whose bodies have been broken by lifetimes of hard labour and people with terminal diseases, and even they get the government and media treating them as guilty until proven innocent.

And what do I have? What my doctor calls severe depression? For fuck's sake, people claim to be depressed when the coke machine didn't have the drink they wanted. So I haul myself off to a meeting, having gone over the drill of what I need to do, clearing my schedule otherwise, arriving half an hour early just to be safe and sitting stock still, simmering with dread over what I can't predict. Then I get into the meeting and all they see is a middle class university graduate who after all made it to the meeting, so how ill could he be? I begrudge being thought of like that, but I hate it even more that they treat those other people the same way, too. Hell, I feel like a fraud just telling you all this.

But hey, at least now I don't have to worry about doing all this in two days. Now I can worry about this lurking at some unknowable point in the future. Awesome.
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April 2013

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