With a thud a brown envelope hits the doormat. Ominous.
It's contents are a DWP summons to a post Work Programme support interview with 'Brian', at the Jobcentre on the 3rd of April at a time not conducive to bus travel. This alone will have to be addressed otherwise I will either be 20 minutes late or 45 minutes early. Of course the idea that they ought to book these appointments (done without my input) with more foresight is unreasonable. What else can we expect; I don't imagine asking them to change the time will be easy (I don't imagine even getting through will be).
So we're back to dealing with the unpredictable scrutiny of the Jobcentre. Though as I knew my time on the wholly useless WP was ending, this is not unexpected.
I have no idea what will come from this; it might be benign - or it might be a prelude to the kind of intense compliance that has been touted by the government. Consequently I am dreading it. The thought of having to attend, or even wander aimlessly around an empty town centre for 45 minutes waiting, makes my stomach churn. This is really down to two things:
Firstly, I am being seen by someone who (presumably) is not trained in mental health and has no real understanding of the relevant issues. I could bring along the letter from the NHS telling me about my next Aspergers assessment appointment. Hopefully the words 'Assistant Psychologist' will carry some weight, but I fear that, being in the Work Related Activity Group (be careful what you wish for, Ghost Whistler!), may well be no defence against whatever horrors await.
Secondly, and following on, I am being seen by someone representing a system that makes certain demands, and demands certain results. This is made worse by the aforementioned lack of understanding: I have to assume they want something from me. In which case it is likely they will advocate wayward and possibly unhealthy courses of action - workfare even, and, by way of justification, will resort to dangerous assumptions and ignorance of my capabilities (and indeed interests - much as the WP has done so far). They will say such things as "other people with (aspergers/anxiety/paranoia/terminal indolence) work", which is a hackneyed favourite that only serves to avoid any responsibility to help.
The uncertainty as to what to expect is unforgivable in my opinion. They know they are dealing with someone that has issues, but woe betided giving them any stake or input into this process. From the process of making the appointment, through informing them (except with the usual threatening caveats about loss of benefits - the only certainty present), to explaining what is involved and how, I have no say - and yet it is all supposedly for my benefit, ironically. Presumably then I will be seen in the open plan office, not a private room (I could ask, but again will it be more trouble than it's worth), in full earshot of others. I will likely have to wait to be seen even at the time allotted (as well as prior), again in a place I do not feel comfortable being in anymore.
All of this is the same as having to attend the Work Programme: it's the same guarded secretive process where the only thing that is explained are the brutal consequences of not attending. I would need 'good reason' not to do so, another certainty is that I won't be able to give them anything near satisfactory. The same irony as the ATOS assessment: attendance = losing the battle while non attendance = complete failure. It is a horrible bind; the modern catch 22.
Just like the Work Programme I will be isolated, alone. I will have to live with the everyday terror this invokes. Okay that sounds rather melodramatic; what I mean to say is that this whole process is singularly alienating. It instills a pervasive level of stress into one's life that just never seems to end. I remember making my way to the Salvation Army church hall and feeling utterly sick. Granted there are certainly people far worse off than I (and that is another certainty), but all that knowledge does is further compound the isolation. This is what they want; this is how the poor and the feckless are meant to think - don't be an outsider, get off your arse and work for £fuck.all (if you can find anything of course, never mind the barriers created by health issues). Individuals going through all this - and one of the reasons I started this blog - are kept isolated; kept alone with the fear created by government's threatening rhetoric and the insecurity of not knowing what awaits them.
I can only hope that what does await me won't be as unpleasant as my initial appointments (of the few that I had - I guess the adviser that took over at the end of last year just gave up) with the Work Programme. But who knows. I'm also conscious that the Work Programme may well have been asked to give feedback on my time, which, I'm sure, will not look good. Sadly in my experience there is precedent for this; as well as the bullying adviser I saw, they lied to the JC after my GP wrote and asked the JC what they were doing for me. In some ways I rather wish he hadn't bothered; how was he to know that doing so, probably with noble intentions, would be like kicking an anthill; rocking the boat.
I suppose there is no getting out of this. I just wish I could be left alone to get on with my life. Why is it deemed so worthless that I must be bulled into dreadful situations for someone else's gain?