Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Just an "admin error"

Apologies for my lack of blogging recently. The colder darker days seem to be making my symptoms flare up so often & I've just not had the energy to do much more than the odd twitter rant and a lot of RTing.

I've posted this a fair few times on Twitter, but wanted to add it to my blog. Thankfully the situation's been sorted out now (and turned out to be some sort of "admin error) but I still feel it's worth sharing because this occurs so often, and it's unacceptable. I'm on ESA, now in the Support Group, but not too long ago I was in the Work Related Activity Group; mandated onto the Work Programme.

Nearly 3 weeks ago, I received this letter from the Work Programme Provider I'd been with up until around June/July this year (personal details edited out):


I'm not sure how clear the picture is, but some of the wording concerned me, e.g. "you are not obliged to attend however it is extremely important that you keep in contact with us so we can help you to find work as quickly as possible"

As the date of the appointment I "failed to attend" was a date when I was still in the WRAG, I did get quite worried, as I couldn't remember if I had attended an appointment then. I'd kept all of the action plans I'd been given at each appointment, so thankfully found the action plan for around that time. It turns out that I'd been ill on that day and had rearranged the appointment for 2 days later. Even though I knew I'd done nothing wrong, and that they couldn't sanction me, the sentence quoted above made me extremely nervous. I wasn't sure whether to get in contact with them, or ignore the letter altogether as my attendance would be voluntary (and I certainly hadn't volunteered after the stress they'd put me through!) It took Diazepam and a lot of rest to even start to calm me down. The whole reason I'm in the Support Group is because I'm not well enough to "find work as quickly as possible". I thought that had been proven many a time!

I'm lucky in that I live with my parents, so my mother could call the place for me to see why I'd received this letter. The first adviser she spoke to seemed very incompetent. For some reason, they thought that because I was in the Support Group, I shouldn't be on ESA! She didn't give a reason why, or where she got this information from but regardless, we didn't get anywhere with her. The next person my mother spoke to was a supervisor who seemed a lot more competent. It turns out that the Work Programme provider uses the same template in most cases (regardless of whether someone's attendance is mandated or voluntary) and this had been a simple admin error, so I wouldn't need to attend. 

For me, thankfully the situation was resolved relatively quickly, but had I lived by myself when this letter arrived, I dread to think how I would've responded. The wording is confusing and frankly intimidating. What may be a simple admin error to a Work Programme provider, or a government department, could be devastating and even dangerous for a claimant on the receiving end.

It is difficult enough to even qualify for ESA. The descriptors do not consider many complexities of chronic illness or disabilities for example. The face to face assessments are said to test someone's "fitness for work" but do not consider any types of work specifically. They are not medicals either so tend to underestimate (or even completely disregard) how debilitating symptoms, such as pain, nausea, anxiety & fatigue, can be. If you're found not fit for work, but are considered fit for work related activity, then you are placed into the Work Related Activity Group. You can also be placed onto the Work Programme. When in this group, I found that there was real pressure to attend every appointment regardless of how ill I felt, or how difficult accessing the building was. They could not force you to do anything you were too ill for, but they would certainly push you and threaten with sanctions. I also found it very difficult to get any reasonable adjustments; even when I could prove why I needed them. This post gives a bit more information about my experiences on the Work Programme. 

Recently, the hashtag #CameronMustGo started trending on Twitter. Journalists have suggested that this is a form of bullying. As someone who experienced bullying for over a decade (and sometimes even when working), of course I'm against bullying, but I do not think this hashtag qualifies as this. It may not lead to Cameron getting the sack, but it at least provides some sort of platform where twitter users can share their opinions, experiences, and reasons why they are against him, his party, and his policies. Thanks to him, benefit sanctions have sky rocketed, hatred against benefit claimants is widespread, more and more we are hearing of people who have died after having their benefits cut or stopped altogether. Just a simple Google search will show you how much devastation this has caused. Surely criticism of him should be expected? 


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