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The Day That Arrived

And so it came: a letter from the DWP accompanied by an assessment form.

Capability For Work Questionnaire, ESA50. 20 pages of questions I will be unable to answer sufficiently that are required to be completed and returned by 7th of April. This is barely enough time to even be seen by my GP, even though doing so will be a waste of time.

I knew this day would come. Hardly a surprise, but still not what you want dropping through the letter box; although - and perhaps deliberately - not in a brown envelope.

Part of me is relieved. Unfortunately that part is tiny and is overwhelmed by the massive black hole of uncertainty now filling up my soul. There is no way I'm going to pass this test so what are my options?

Firstly it needs to be understood that nothing written on this form will convince them to forego a medical assessment in person. This experience will presumably be held at the local venue I attended initially; a place run by an incredibly abrasive and hostile administrator who cares not that people have to wait nor for how long. Appointments are booked without consideration for difficulties incurred or inconvenience. The amount of ID required to actually be seen when you do attend transcends that required to convince a national bank that you are not a terrorist nor money launderer.

I have no chance of persuading an assessor (and the person I saw last time, once I got past the reception desk and the aforementioned administrator, was pleasant enough). Am I wasting my time even attending? If so, why bother filling in the form. The only reason is to buy time.

I have a small window within which to fill this form in, certainly compared to last time. Am I wasting my time even doing this if not, again, to buy time. I do not know how long processing this form will take: this could itself be months, though it is probably safer to assume it's a matter of weeks if not days. The process has changed (as has the government, more's the pity) which means these assessments are held by Maximus, not ATOS. Whether they are more or less efficient is unknown to me. I notice that a completed form is sent to Wolverhampton, which is nowhere near me. Thus it's safe to assume this is some kind of clearing process. From there I assume they are sent to the relevant assessment centre and appointments are arranged. These appointments cannot be changed - I tried that before and, despite two separate ATOS agents telling me I could, I almost lost my benefit. I only wanted to change it by a couple of weeks, hardly being evasive.

This is simply a matter of time; if I have an assessment there is no way on earth I will pass, no matter how pleasant the assessor's demeanour. The reason these considerations are important isn't simply about playing for time, it's about dealing with uncertainty and maximising my resources, If (when) I lose my ESA I lose my income. I have to know how I can support myself afterwards - never mind having to deal with any subsequent claim for JSA (or Universal Credit, as it will in fact be). Never mind that, I simply cannot cope with going back to the jobcentre, and, thanks to First Bus, it's highly likely I won't be able to since they removed the only bus that went there. Now we have a minimal private coach service whose provision is so spartan it will be impossible to meet the demands JC+ place on signing times, which will not be flexible nor negotiable.

At this point I'm not even sure if there's any point visiting my GP again. She is not going to be able to help, in fact I doubt she is even going to want to help. Anything work related - or rather benefit related - and they are like vampires in sunlight. This is all because of the prevailing social attitudes; work is the great panacea (except when it is not, and assuming you can find any), and 'sick' people are just making excuses, particularly people who are suffering from mental health issues.

There will be no support offered, there hasn't been so far.

There are no systems that can address help finding work, particularly for people that have been unemployed a lot and have a history of what will be seen as minor mental health issues.

Yet these issues are persistent and real, certainly to me - to whom it matters. I have failed to acquire a diagnosis of any kind, which is the biggest problem. No one will be willing to provide supporting material. Even then, what good would that do? In the end I do not see any future at all. Having to deal once again with signing on fills me with more dread than I can imagine and using that Universal Jobmatch system to try and find work is an exercise in futility. The site is so catastrophically designed.

Where support is needed it is not provided and in its place is scorn and suspicion. People are assumed to be able to cope and if they can't they are just making excuses. I do not know which way forward to go.


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