So for my second blog post, I’m going to pick something very personal.
On the 1st of April I attended a DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) assessment for ESA (Employment Support Allowance). No it’s not an April Fools! They called in the morning to check I was going to attend. When I arrived at the appointment I had to buzz the door very firmly (if anyone had been in a wheelchair there is no way he would have reached the buzzer). The receptionist asked my name which I gave, and asked if I had any ID. They didn’t say in the morning when they called that I would need ID so I didn’t take any! (And I couldn’t read the letter they had sent because it was printed on white paper, despite it being stated clearly on my file that I am dyslexic and can only read printing on coloured paper). Luckily I had my bus pass and my bank card with me!
They had made a mistake on the letter with the name of my appointee, so there was a bit of carry on there for a good 15 minutes. When I said to the receptionist that I was getting anxious and upset because of my autism – at this point my foot was tapping like nobody’s business on the floor – all she said was “We’re not late.” In fact it was now 2.00 and my appointment was 1.45 so I think yes they were late. By the time I got through to the room it was 2.05 and my autism was through the roof, my anxiety was over the hill; it felt like I was going to have a heart attack! Unfortunately at this point I completely had a meltdown, quite an angry one: I shouted that they were late, that the form had been filled out incorrectly, and that I was really anxious. My appointee, who was from my support company, said to me (unhelpfully), “If you don’t calm down they’re going to get the police!” I turned round and said, “Fine, get the police.”
Well, they didn’t. They moved on with the interview, asking silly questions like, “Have you seen your family?” Well my mum died on July 28th 2011 of cancer and my dad committed suicide five years ago this very year on the 18th of April! They then asked “Do you have a daily routine and follow a daily structure?” I said, “Yes, I follow it vigorously.” They asked if I could make a meal, and I said, “Well, does taking something out of the freezer and sticking it in the micro for five minutes count as making a meal? It’s a ready meal after all!” They just asked another question: “Do you get support?” My appointee piped up and said, “Yes, we support him four hours a month – one hour emotional support, the rest for his finances.” I turned around and said “You’re joking! Most of the people in my life give me emotional support! And, wait a minute, you guys mucked up my money and I’m now paying back a loan. I wouldn’t be in this position if you gave me the right support.”
Next they asked “When was the last time you felt suicidal?” Well I answered saying, “Right now. I can see you have a pair of scissors in your pen holder. I want to grab them and stick them in my neck. I know the vein that will make me bleed to death.” Of course, I didn’t or I wouldn’t be writing this blog! The woman from the DWP or whatever department she was from, was tapping the keyboard so hard I’m surprised it still worked! It was like she was operating it with a hammer.
At the end when I handed over a letter about my recent surgery she just said, “It looks good.” I’m now waiting to hear but it will probably be three to four weeks was what the woman told me. After I left, my appointee asked me what I was going to do when I got home. I was still quite anxious so I turned around and said, “I’m going to kill myself,” because that’s how I felt. I still haven’t heard from him so I could be lying dead (again, I’m not because I wouldn’t be writing this blog).
So this is my experience of a DWP appointment. I would just like to say a massive thank you to several friends who have managed to put up with me moaning and complaining after it. There is no way I’m going to let the bastards get to me or get me down or get to me in any way shape or form. I thought I should blog about this so others know exactly what the experience is like. Thank you for reading it.