I had been in receipt of ESA allowance for a number of months when a letter arrived detailing I had to attend a medical assessment which would prove if I was capable of working. If you have read the post I wrote about the Back To Work Interviews For The Mentally Ill you will understand why appointments like this terrify me. I know it is not just me, these interviews and medicals affect thousands of other mentally ill people who are facing this prejudice every day.
Days before the medical I was not sleeping, starving myself as punishment for feeling so frightened and the voices came back to haunt me, reminding me how worthless and useless I was. My husband became worried about my mental health state and telephoned to ask for the medical to place at our home, they refused me and I was told if I did not attend then my entitlement to benefits would be stopped. I have 6 children and I could not risk that happening.
My health visitor had to arrange a private taxi to take me to the appointment that was 30 minutes away from my home town. I had to ask for a plastic bag from the taxi driver as I felt sick with worry. When I arrived the panic set in fast.
Worse still I was made to wait 40 minutes in a waiting room. I was pacing the floor, the tears were falling from my face, my head was spinning and there was no offer of a cup of water or an empty side room.
Finally I was called into a small room where a lady sat at a desk with a computer screen; she reeled off question after question at me. I had to keep asking her to repeat herself; I was struggling to even remember my name and date of birth because I was so stressed out.
How often did I take a bath?
Did someone have to help me get dressed?
Can I go to the toilet alone?
Can I cook a family mean? (I wasn’t sure if I should tell her how I like would like to put my hand in the chap pan oil)
Can I reach up high?
They went on and on …
The questions were humiliating and I felt she was poking fun at me. I do not remember one of the hundreds of questions relating to mental health at all.
It was a complete joke. The system is laughable. The interviewer had no idea about mental health at all and could not even pronounce my medication let alone spell it.
It was no surprise to receive a letter two weeks later that detailed I had failed the medical and I was deemed fit for work. It explained that I could change benefits and claim Job Seekers Allowance and I was now expected to go and sign on and find a job.
Thankfully I had an appointment with my CPN (community Psychiatric Nurse) that week and when I told her I was going to be going back to work, she made a phone call to the Citizens Advice Bureau and I was told we were going to appeal the decision. I will write a further post on the appeal process and how I won it.