Thursday, 7 August 2014

The big day is almost here

After almost a year, I have finally received a letter from ATOS giving me an assessment date. ATOS is the company the government decided was capable of assessing who needed financial support to help them live normal lives with a disability. There are two disability benefits PIP (Personal Independence Payment) and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance). PIP (not to be mistaken for PPI) is a benefit for anyone with a disability to help with the cost of carers and getting around. It replaced DLA just over a year ago. ESA is for anyone with a disability who is unable to work due to their disability.

Sounds straightforward enough. But how do you assess whether someone is eligible for such benefits? As a student, I can't get ESA anyway as Student Finance covers enough and I'm not out in the big wide world just yet, but just what criteria would you use to define a person as unable to get a job? And if they were capable of maybe getting some certain types of jobs, would there be enough available for them to be hired anyway? Similar questions apply to PIP and I have talked (or moaned rather) about this already on this blog).

It seems ATOS' criteria basically includes any person who is living. Maybe a slight exaggeration but it does seem to be the only consistent criterion. I have heard from many people with severe CFS/ME who are bedbound and are in agony at the sensation of any light, sound or touch, who have had to have their assessment from their bed classed as capable of getting a job. Thankfully ATOS is ending their contract early and very soon will no longer be conducting assessments. In the meantime I have an assessment with them. As someone who can live and breathe I probably won't get any benefits so that's at least 2-3 hours of my day in which I could be resting or doing something productive  instead humouring a person with a series of tick-boxes. If you hadn't noticed, I'm very much a cynic. The world is starting to prove me wrong on these things, but it's taking its time.

Alongside this, I have been decluttering in what I call Operation Room Renovation. This has been taking a while as I have limited energy, concentration and ability to stop being sentimentally attached to every item. The Bible talks about living as simply as possible as humans tend to fill their minds with belongings as opposed to God, and even the ancient Romans believed in living simply (well some of them anyway, such as Horace). My concentration is so bad that hopefully removing some of the items that take it up may leave some room for the things that matter. Currently my absent-mindedness is showing itself in the number of glasses of water I have filled, left somewhere and then forgotten about. There is usually at least 3 in the house somewhere at one time...

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