It's Finally Happened.

So, it's finally happened. The changes which are currently being wrought in the benefits system which have caused so much unease amongst those who are ill or disabled, and which I have written about in this blog, are now going to affect me. I received a letter through the post last Friday telling me that I am going to be reassessed for the benefits I receive. Of course, Incapacity Benefit is being phased out by the government, with a new benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, replacing it. The new benefit is described in the letter as something which "helps people with an illness or disability move into work and provides people with the support they need". I will first have to fill in a "Limited Capability for Work" questionnaire, in which I will be asked to describe how my illness affects me from day to day. Later, I may be asked to attend a Work Capability Assessment, a prospect I am none too keen on given the appalling reputation of Atos, the company which has been contracted to carry out these assessments.
On the face of it this new benefit would seem to be designed for people like me who have an illness but nonetheless want to find some sort of work. But it has been shown that Atos are often passing people as being fit to work, when clearly they are not. This has caused a great deal of anxiety and distress amongst those experiencing mental ill health, and only in my last post I spoke of how the prospect of reassessment had led, according to a survey by the mental health charity Mind, to 51% of people with mental illness and receiving benefits to have suicidal thoughts.
I can only hope, I suppose, that after my assessment I will end up on the new benefit, and not simply put onto Jobseeker's Allowance, a process which would leave me with less money and perhaps less choice in the type of work I would be expected to do. After all, my diagnosis hasn't changed, and although I might want part-time work, I am still unsure how a job might affect my well-being, and being thrown into full-time employment after 16 years under the care of mental health services is a daunting prospect. The last time I was in paid employment was even further back in 1994. While I may then agree that people with illnesses or some form of disability should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential, I also hope that the right support will be provided, and that I will only be expected to do work which is suitable given my illness.
It could be, of course, that once again the government is just putting a reasonable sounding spin on the fact that moving people off Incapacity Benefit and onto Jobseeker's Allowance will save money, thus being just another cut affecting the already poor and vulnerable. Add to that that jobs, particularly in Stoke-on-Trent, are not exactly plentiful, and one does wonder exactly what the motives are behind the creation of this new benefit.
So, while I'm not exactly incapacitated, and feel that I could do at least something, I can only hope that the process I am about to go through will be a painless and not so negative one. I can imagine what a daunting prospect this is for people who have not managed to recover as well as me, and my heart goes out to them. As for myself, I'm sure that I'll write more about this after my reassessment. For now, I think, I'll just have to grin and bear it.


Dixie said…
Dear David,
I always have someone fill out the paperwork in their handwriting; mine is so bad. Then I sign it. I also always take a witness to every meeting in case I don't 'hear' something or misinterpret. It really helps out a lot. With my Fibromyalgia I do have mental health issues; can't deny that now. So I need someone I can trust to help me record what is said. I don't if this is something you've considered.
Either way, I send you my very best regards and will keep you in my thoughts... which will be positive.
You deserve so much. I hope others realise this and grant your needs complete.
David said…
Dear Dxie,
Thanks for your good wishes. I was thinking of perhaps getting in touch with the mental health team I used to be under the care of to see if I could enlist their help with this. For now, though, I think I'll just wait and see what the questionnaire I have to fill in is like. I'm hoping that everything will trun out fine, but I can't be sure of that, so I thank you for thinking of me.
Very Best Wishes, your way,
klahanie said…
Dear David,
When I read the title of your posting I was hoping it was something encouraging.
This does make for distressing reading and you know that this is having a detrimental impact on the anxiety endured by those who are not duly fit for work. And yes, the reputation of Atos is appalling.
I'm hoping that this impending assessment you are having does turn out to be in your favour. I know that describing your illness when it is at its worst, should be of some help.
Like Dixie notes, seek advice and get help if you feel you need it, with any form filling.
I hope this is a positive outcome for you. An even better outcome would be to rid us of the most evil government in living memory.
All the best and in hope your way, Gary
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thank you for your concern. I'm hoping, of course, that things turn out OK, and as you say, describing my illness at its worst might help me here. Unusually, it's perhaps the one time my diagnosis may actually work in my favour!
Thanks once again, Gary, and I hope I'll speak with you soon.
Best Regards,
Lost in Space said…
I hope everything goes smoothly with the reassessment.
David said…
Thanks Lost in Space. I knew that it was going to happen, as it will with everyone who receives Incapacity Benefit, and I too hope that it all goes smoothly. One can but hope, I suppose!
Very Best Wishes,

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