Are benefit assessments fair?
On the BBC News this morning there was an article regarding benefit assessments, you can read it here
It has been a long time since I was assessed for incapacity benefit but I can remember it being a very ridiculing and belittling experience and on reading the article, it would seem that nothing much has changed on that front!
I CAN completely understand that there are high numbers of people claiming benefit when actually they could and should be working and unfortunately depression/stress/anxiety are fairly easy to mimic BUT what about those people who genuinely cannot work and end up being penalised and potentially their condition being made worse by being forced to work when they are simply not well enough to?
I do not have the answer for this but it makes me so cross when I see clients/friends/family struggling to cope day to day and being forced to prove that they are also searching for a job – can these assessment clinics not see the potential damage they are doing and ultimately the cost to the NHS in the long term?
When I had my first assessment many years ago, all of the questions were about my physical abilities.
Could I walk upstairs without getting out of breath?
Could I dress myself?
Could I wash myself?
Could I walk 1 mile?
These questions made me feel like I was a fake, that I wasn’t really ill at all. I will never, ever forget the first assessor I met – she was scary! Straight away it was obvious that she thought I was a benefit cheat, she doubted everything I said. When it came to the mental health element, it was laughable. I was asked simple arithmetic questions which made me feel stupid if I couldn’t get them right so I was determined to work them out correctly – more fool me. I should have let the anxiety take over and got them wrong.
I was in and out inside of 40 minutes. 40 minutes to decide whether I was suffering from chronic depression yet no question relating to that was ever asked. 40 minutes to determine whether I could get a pittance that is incapacity benefit but would have made a massive difference at the time, and this, from someone who potentially has no experience of mental health disorders – what a farce and a joke.
Needless to say, I was told I was not ill. You can imagine how this made me feel. Was it all in my head? Was I making it all up? Was I making a mountain out of a molehill? Was this all my fault? I had so many questions, all of which had negative answers for me, which naturally did nothing for my mood!
Now, it has been several years since I have had an assessment and I do not know how much it has changed but from the news article and my clients, it would seem not a lot. When is our benefits system going to introduce a different system for assessing those with physical ailments and those with mental health disorders? That to me would be common sense.
How can you possibly determine whether someone with chronic depression is able to work by asking them about their physical health. Yes, at severe levels, it does affect physical health but do we really have to wait until people get that ill before we do anything about our benefits system?
Asking someone if they can dress themselves ‘most of the time’ will not tell you whether someone can work or not. Some days they may be able to, other days not – how many employers do you know that will happily take someone on with that criteria?
I was extremely lucky, I worked for Signet as a trouble shooting retail manager back then and they were extremely supportive (I do wonder if it was guilt at the stress they piled on me!!!), they paid for private health care for me when the NHS wouldn’t and supported my return to work even though I was only back a short time before I was off with stress again and then resigned. Most people do not have employers like that.
Of course, if an individual is suffering and has support around them then if the assessment is rejected then that support network may well appeal on the individuals behalf BUT what about those that don’t have the support? What about those people who are trying to struggle along and cope? Having to appeal may be too much for them?
Something to think about………..
Health and happiness x