So I was having a nice quiet Saturday morning, until a letter landed on the mat. It was from Atos, inviting me to a medical, well, if you can call “we have arranged an appointment for you at: ******* . It is important that you attend. If you fail to attend, your benefit may be affected” an invitation.
It’s not the tone of the letter that has me astonished, horrified and not sure whether it’s appropriate to laugh. In the form they sent me and that I sent back to them a while ago, I explained that I cannot walk far without resting, that steps are an issue and my feet are painful. In response, with this appointment invitation, they have sent me a ‘suggested route’ to the assessment centre – a 1 hour 14 minute journey by walking and by bus, with 5 changes – Walk, bus, walk, bus, walk.
Are they insane? Stupid? Having a laugh? Or all of the above? Or maybe they really think that I am capable of this, and of course if I actually do take their suggested route (ha!) they’d no doubt use it as evidence that I’m not eligible for benefits. And to make it clear, I actually stopped claiming ESA a month ago, and am registered as self-employed with the HMRC. I was claiming ESA from september to March because I got so tired of being jerked around by the JobCentre – maybe one day I’ll describe some of my more colourful experiences with them on here – and actually took less money on ESA than I did on JSA just because a) my legs were getting to the point that driving myself to jobcentre was becoming more of a pain and b) I wasn’t asked moronic questions every two weeks.
They are so far behind, it’s taken them 8 months and a month after I stopped claiming to get round to giving me a medical. And this is how the government is going to overhaul our benefits system.
I have a better idea – encourage, no, force the various departments to talk to each other. In my dealings with the DWP / JobCentre / BCC / Other agencies, I’ve lost count of the number of times that information is simply not passed from one to the other and more often than not, important documents are ‘lost’. The onus is on me to make sure everyone is up to date. No wonder it’s so easy to screw the system. Unless you’re genuine, like me, then the system screws you. I agree completely that the benefits system needs a complete overhaul. But instead of treating the claimants like criminals and idiots, why not emphasise the importance of communication and competence to the people administrating the system? I guarantee things would improve much quicker than by giving everyone a bewildering new set of rules.
Now what was my point when I started all this? I’m sure I had one. Oh yes – I will NOT be taking Atos’s suggested route to the assessment centre. I will be insisting on the attendance of a BSL interpreter. I’m also seriously considering taping the whole thing, so I can show how they deal with deaf claimants, or in my case, deaf ex-claimants.
Atos, here I come!