I checked my bank account this morning and noticed an extra twenty pounds that shouldn’t be there. Turns out that it’s the ESA I was owed from the date I failed my WCA, which I learn about when I contact them to find out why they are paying me this extra money. A letter to follow came through in the post shortly after.
This isn’t really news. There was no way I was going to pass this test, if you can call it that. No way at all. Now I will have to appeal, though I’m not entirely sure of myself in the process. I will also have to convince my GP to provide sick notes during the wait for any appeal I am entitled to, assuming there aren’t further requirements for making an appeal (providing further evidence for example) I can’t fulfil.
The whole process is antediluvian: does the decision maker speak with you? Your doctor or specialist? Anyone? Of course not. Their decision is based solely on what ATOS tells them. You can provide supporting evidence, but in all cases it is simply about scoring points. A letter that says the person suffers from X isn’t going to tick a box or score points unless it directly meets the criteria. When it comes to ‘mental, cognitive and intellectual functions’ (not emotional I note) these criteria are:
Learning how to do tasks – their assessment I can learn how to do new tasks. This of course is very simplistic. I see no division on the basis of complexity. It’s taken me 2 hours to read the letter; not because I can’t read or lack intellect, but because I find it hard to process information in one go. For example, if I read a book (and I do, frequently albeit painfully slowly) I always skip to the end of the chapter to see how long it is because my concentration and attention are terrible. I don’t enjoy this and it has nothing to do with my ability to walk and talk which of course are, essentially the superficial criteria for judgement. I am after all capable of writing all this right now.
Being aware of danger – I am aware of everyday dangers and can keep myself safe. Ok fine; I haven’t claimed otherwise.
Starting a task and finishing it to the end – I can usually manage to begin and finish daily tasks. I don’t know what constitutes a daily task or how that applies to a working environment, which is really the question. I can make cups of tea; I can cook food, etc. But again what constitutes a task; what level of complexity? Some jobs require lots of form filling, or report writing, or whatever. I would struggle meeting deadlines and working to another’s schedule, and this is not reflected in this assessment. Again it is a very superficial reading that does not take into account one’s capability to cope with a working environment. Given that I’d now have to compete for jobs if I am to claim JSA, assuming I cannot appeal, I would struggle. Where is the help there?
Coping with changes – I can cope with small unexpected changes to a daily routine. I’m not sure how representative this is of a working environment. If I’m in a job where I’m having my workload regularly increased and things put on top of me all the time what am I going to do? Small changes, such as running out of peppermint tea, are one thing, but that’s not the same thing. No part of this assessment is representative of a working environment.
Coping with getting about on your own – I can get to somewhere that I don’t know without someone going with me. I’m not sure what that’s based on and again it’s all hypothetical. Do they assume this based on my attendance? Probably. But then I know the area and have been there before. I knew what to expect – and I didn’t expect much, hence not being surprised at this decision. Having to attend an appointment on the other side of Bristol at a place that’s completely unfamiliar to me (where the mental health asperger’s team is base) is another matter entirely, as I tried to explain. But you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t: my not attending that appointment just proves that I’m a lazy shmuck. My attending that appointment proves I can cope. If I could work from home that would be a lot easier but that isn’t going to happen.
Dealing with other people – I can deal with people I don’t know. Again this is based on the virtue of not freaking out during the assessment as I didn’t know the assessor. The same argument as ‘how did you travel here today?’ it’s a no win situation.
Behaviour with other people – I behave in a way that would be acceptable at work, whatever that means. Presumably anything that isn’t pants on head, poo flung at wall, crazy is acceptable. But it doesn’t get to the root of these issues. I don’t find it easy dealing with people often. It entirely depends on the working environment, so do I assume I can cope, or that I can’t. What do I do meanwhile?
I scored zero points. What a surprise. If people with serious physical disabilities score nothing lying on their deathbeds, there was no chance I was going to score anything.
The reality is this is an entirely superficial test based on reactionary principles. They assume that, because I can talk to the assessor and am not freaking out, that I’m fine. They can’t read my mind, or my emotional state. They don’t understand that I was familiar with the place and the area. They do not take into account the reality of the issues I describe and have no understanding of how they affect people, what to look for, or how to test for this. In fact no part of this is a test at all. If a GP examined someone in this fashion they would receive complaints. It’s like the old joke: “Doctor it hurts when I do this” and the doctor says: “well don’t do it then!”
Seven questions that are intended to cover the myriad aspects and almost infinite variety of mental health conditionality. These do not even address emotional issues which, in a working environment, are important surely.
The test makes simplistic assumptions looking only to score people if their answers or problems, if verified, fit those criteria. It is not administered in a specialist capacity by trained diagnosticians and such people do not decide the outcome. It is utterly ridiculous. I was never going to pass, but it changes nothing. I cannot cope with the systems that exist; the fact I can read and write and walk and talk, do not address the problems that I do have. Instead those problems are deemed relative and my needs addressed only in those terms. Furthermore because such stock is placed on people working you are assumed to have to be cold in the ground before you are ‘allowed’ to pass. It is a no win situation and the outcomes do not address your needs. I remain, my problems remain, however small they might seem, and they affect me, and I have no support at all. I am fit to work; only I can’t cope with work. I will have to “pull myself together”, like in that other old doctor, doctor joke.