Mrs Mike has had another setback in her struggle to become a worthwhile member of society.
For those not in the know, my significant other has been receiving sickness benefits for many years after damaging her back in what she believes was a work-related injury. Her (now-former) employers have never admitted any liability and her trade union let her down badly. She currently suffers with back problems which are worsened by fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome (operation soon) and mental problems including depression.
Until last August she was in receipt of Incapacity Benefit, but after one of the DWP’s infamous Work Capability Assessments she was put in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance. Shortly before Christmas she had an interview at the local Job Centre Plus, when possible ways of slowly reintroducing her into the job market were suggested.
She has always hated being unable to work, and the opportunity to get back into active service, so to speak, brightened her outlook considerably.
Arrangements were made for her to have a telephone interview with a representative from a company that provides help in getting people back to work. Having presented the experiences of David Dennis on this blog, I was sceptical about the amount of real, practical help this could offer, but I kept quiet and waited to see what would happen.
Firstly, they phoned to say their rep was sick.
Then they phoned to ask Mrs Mike to call back on another day.
Then the Job Centre phoned to ask why she hadn’t spoken to the company rep. When she explained, arrangements were made for her to phone again – today.
She called at 3pm. Spoke to a machine because nobody was answering. Left her number. After a while, she took the return call. A while after that, she passed the phone on to me.
“Could you talk to them, please?”
The lady on the line was friendly enough, but her message was utterly frustrating. “I’ve spoken to your partner and from what she tells me, we can’t do anything to help her. She’s not going to get better in the timeframe within which we work. I know people with fibromyalgia and that’s just not going to happen. I recommend that you appeal against the decision to put her in the work-related activity group.”
“We can’t appeal,” I said. “That decision came back in August and we were advised not to appeal against it because it was unlikely to succeed.”
She was adamant. “Ask for a review of the decision, with a view to going into the support group. Go back to her doctor and request reassessment.”
So there you go. Six months in the new system (the WCA was in July) and we’re at square one. The whole experience has been pointless so far.
Worse than pointless, in fact. This has affected my girlfriend’s state of mind, you see. The thought of going through another WCA terrifies her (the first was harrowing enough), and the possibility of going through the system again and getting nowhere – again – seems a certainty to her.
It’s like psychological warfare.
I’m not blaming anyone who has dealt with us directly. I’m sure they all mean well. But it’s the system that is at fault. It has been created, not to help people, but to break their spirit. The message is: “You’re wasting your time here. You won’t get what you need. You should give up and do something else instead.”
Except, the prime choice for people on disability benefits who DO choose to do something else instead appears to be suicide.
And all the time we have to listen to Iain Duncan Smith verbalising his DWP inanities via every right-wing news outlet he can dupe into carrying them.
I shall keep you informed.