Hello, I’m still alive I promise, my head’s just not where it should be right now. Again.
Here I am, at 6am on a Sunday morning, unable to sleep, and I read the news on the BBC. It seems that yet again the IB and DLA Personal Capability Assessment is coming under fire:
“Almost 80,000 sick and disabled people a year are being wrongly denied benefits…”
Disability Minister Anne McGuire has said, “What I think ought to be recognised is that we are responding positively where those criticisms are made.” which is nice, because I feel even more empowered to be able to complain to the Paliamentary Ombudsman.
I especially like the bit that says:
“Atos Origin doctors send their reports to civil servants who make a final decision about a person’s entitlement.”
Which is interesting, because if the points are awarded based on a certain section of questions on the report, it makes it incredibly easy for the examining medical practitioner to lean either in favour or (more likely) against a claimant getting benefit.
I still chew over in my mind why the doctor made such blatant errors in my case. The article highlights that “the relationship between a private contractor – Atos Origin – and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has often been to blame” which makes you wonder. I had imagined a top secret memo to EMP’s about Mr Hutton’s plan to get 1m people off IB, and subliminally feeding them right wing propaganda, but then my imagination sometimes works overtime…
But at least the CAB has stood up and said something about the Incapacity Benefit Reforms proposals.
“People with mental health problems are particularly likely to be wrongly assessed”
What, really??? /sarcasm
In my opinion, we already are. The current PCA assessment works for people who know how to work the system. People with genuine mental health conditions like mine are more likely to be honest, and in my opinion, are more likely to have benefits denied than someone who is committing fraud and knows exactly what the Benefits Agency is looking for. The PCA awards points for malingering, and takes them away if you try to improve your condition.
I also note with interest the comment about assessing doctors being “rude and insensitive” – how about doctors who know nothing about the mental health problem they’re supposed to be assessing?
I had already considered writing to mental health charity MIND, and my MP about this, now I have back up.
The full press report can be found here.
When the BBC originally opened “Have Your Say” to comments from the public about Incapacity Benefit reforms, it was a general “what do you think, then?” Over the following days, the priority of the question gave way to things like “Should we have ID cards?” and “What do you think of the latest Bin Laden tapes?”. Mr Hutton’s latest revalation that GP’s should be offered cash to encourage IB claimants back to work has brought the issue to the fore again, this time with the heading “Should welfare work rules be tougher?” I can’t help thinking that the BBC is trying to lead people – it’s funny how the topic slid quickly down the list when it became clear that many commenters were absolutely incensed about Mr Hutton’s proposals.
My favourite comment, however, comes from a GP:
“As a GP, I reckon I should be a patient advocate, not a police service for a heavily flawed benefits sytem.”
I keep sending comments in, but so far only one has been published. The BBC allow 500 characters for your comment, which isn’t much to voice your dissent, especially when you want to respond to so many of the commenters who appear less than clued up about the whole thing. I may do it here…
Well, this should be fun…
“[Incapacity Benefit] reforms would include an element of compulsion”
I think the thing I have to hold on to is that these plans aren’t due to go ‘live’ until about 2008. By then, I’ll either have had enough counselling to get me better enough to work, or a new government will be in power. Like Scarlett O’Hara said, “I can’t think about that now, I’ll think about that tomorrow” Still, it doesn’t help. Half way down the page is a link to “Have Your Say” – where the Beeb invites comments from the public. Some of them make interesting (if spine tingling) reading.
Regarding my appeal, I don’t want to say a huge amount, other than “friends who are legal secretaries are just utterly wonderful”. I now have the appeal forms filled in and sent, with the help of her boss. I can’t begin to describe how grateful I am to them both.
One thing that I realised when I was rattling on to anyone who would listen, was that the doctor at the medical didn’t ask me one single question about panic attacks. Given that panic attacks are the main reason I don’t work (my fear of going outside alone has a lot to do with a fear of having a panic attack on my own), I think this is utterly disgusting. There’s a lot wrong with that medical, not just the system and how it works, but the actual doctor and his examination.
I wanted to make a comment about this news story, but I keep on deleting and restarting because I am just so lost for words. There is so much that bothers me about it – where do I start?
Okay, firstly, what was wrong with accepting the girls apology? Second, how on earth does an “anxiety attack” warrant a visit to the Emergency Room, let alone $900 worth of medical treatment? As I understand it, the visit to the ER took place the day after the girls left the cookies. How is that an anxiety attack? Anxiety and panic attacks are sudden, a surge of adrenaline within seconds of the trigger. Either this woman or the media need to clarify their definition of an “anxiety attack”.
Obviously, my opinion is formed from reading some of the various news items on this story, and I am not remotely qualified to diagnose this woman’s health issues by reading them, but something just isn’t right. It pains me that yet again, something in the news pertaining to anxiety has tarred sufferers with that negative brush.
Yesterday, the BBC reported on the benefit reforms outlined by the government – namely the reforms regarding Incapacity Benefit. The benefit I happen to be claiming.
My first reaction was one of fear. The proposals outline a basic benefit, topped up if the claimant attends “job related assessments” and rehabilitation. I had flashes in my mind of my husband having to take time off work – again – to take me to these things, the panic attacks, the judgement from Benefits Agency officials because on the outside, I look ‘normal’. My fear soon turned to annoyance, and I clicked the link to “have your say”. I did, and clicked “submit”. Waiting for my comment to be reviewed by the BBC staff, I started to read some of the previously published ones.
I suppose it’s only inevitable that there are people out there who think that Incapacity Benefit claimants are a bunch of scroungers who don’t want to work, but I found myself yet again feeling judged. The BBC says it publishes comments that “reflect the balance of opinion [they] have received so far”. If this is the case, there are some very bigoted and insensitive people out there, who are content to make sweeping generalisations about people in my situation. It boils down to the same thing, over and over again. People who haven’t experienced mental illness, or have watched a loved one suffer, will simply not understand the complexities and the utter helpessness that these diseases effectuate.
My illness is very complex. Last week, I walked to the end of the street by myself, to ask a builder for a quote to fix my roof. Three days later, I was panicking over absolutely nothing in Sainsbury’s. No trigger, nothing. Just an inexorable feeling of drowning in fear. I can’t explain why.
Maybe the problem that many people have, is that mental illness is not a black and white thing. If I broke my leg, you could look at x-rays, see the cast. There’d be something tangible to give reason to my inability to walk. Mental illness isn’t like that. I look fine, if you saw me in the street, you probably wouldn’t give me a second thought (unless I was having a panic attack!). There’s nothing physically stopping me from leading a normal life.
I guess this is why my condition angers me so much. I’m in between. I’m not severely disabled, yet I’m not functioning ‘normally’. Healthcare provisions in this area mean that I’d have to cross town to get therapy. As I said to my GP, if I can cross town, I don’t need the therapy. In effect, I am stuck on my own, in a situation where I am having to make my treatment up as I go along. That’s what makes it so hurtful when people refuse to try and empathise.
The full list of comments can be read here.
footnote: I am aware that I have used the word ‘normal’ in this entry. It’s a word that I hate using, however in this case, I am referring to the ‘normal’ me – the me without fear, depression and panic.