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ESA Appeal Stage Two

Big letter today, in the post (and not the second hand DVD I ordered either). That’s right it’s the appeal. They have decided, while I wait until I can see the CAB benefit appeal specialist (that’s next Wednesday), that the original decision still stands: in lieu of evidence that might cause them to change their mind (if such evidence exists) the original decision still stands. Naturally I am shocked at this unexpected turn of events.

Apparently this now goes to the tribunal stage. The information is passed to them as the next stage of this inscrutable and frankly nonsensical process. In a panic I range the CAB to tell them I had received this letter and that I’m still waiting for my appointment with them – should I change my trousers? Not yet, at least. It seems – at least according to them – my benefit won’t get stopped at this point.

I say apparnelty because at no point, in this entire process, is anything actually explained to you. At best you have to ask people, you have to ring up those that claim to be the experts, including the DWP. None of the people making this appeal have of course contacted me. I am expected to provide them with evidence, having not done so they have made this initial decision. That’s what got me into a flap – should I have sent what evidence I have (such as it is)? Will not doing so count against me? Am I following the rules? I had a GP appointment this morning to set the ball rolling for another go at an Asperger’s/ADD diagnosis; god knows how long I’ll have to wait for that to come around. Will the DWP wait? Can I ask them to work with me in all of this?

The problem here is there are several systems in play that are not in sync: you need to get information for the appeal, but they do not tell you how long you have to get that info or even how to present it to them (I gather you just post it off). They don’t adequately explain – as pertains to the status of your income – what happens and there’s no real clue as to when. You have no opportunity to sit down with any of these people, never mind with your GP or specialist until at least the tribunal. Of course GP’s aren’t going to be accompanying people; they don’t like any aspect of this. They don’t understand it and would prefer people got a job and stopped bothering them. In fact one thing that I have noticed is that most of the agencies you talk to have a tone of weariness to them: they’ve heard all the complaints, they know all the problems and they can’t help. This translates into frustration which of course is passed, perhaps not deliberately, onto the claimant – the poor sod who has to live with the consequences.

We all know the answer to that. I asked the CAB person I just spoke to (who wasn’t the benefit specialist) what my chances were given that I’m not claiming to be 100% unfit for work. I tried to explain that I need to be in the WRAG; that’s my goal. She explained that the benefit specialist, when handling these kinds of appeals, is essentially looking to apply as many of the descriptors to score at least 15 points. Here’s the problem: if she can’t do that, by hook or by crook, then there isn't going to be much point appealing. At least that’s the message, implicitly, that I got.

I’ve already talked about the descriptors; that for mental health there are 7 and two of them at least are vague ‘how long is a piece of string’ type questions.  Most of them require you to be in such a mental fugue in order to score them. You have to be completely psychotic and totally incapable of functioning in the world in order to get 15 points that I don’t stand a snowball in hell’s chance of passing. This whole system is a complete mess; it is inscrutable, impenetrable, obscure and mysterious. It requires that you fit into very specific profiles with no room for flexibility and, seemingly, no room for discussion. I can only hope that last part isn’t true, but I doubt it. I think even the CAB acknowledge there is a limbo status that exists within the benefit system but there is nothing they can do about it. I can’t cope with the JC+ environment. I certainly can’t cope with the Work Programme in JSA mode if past experience is any indication, and given how JSA is increasingly making ridiculous demands of people, I am going to struggle coping with that – I just know I’ll get into an argument the minute they ask me to concede access to my UJ account (which of course I don’t want to create as the website is still complete shit). I can only hope the CAB has some answers for this, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

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