Benefits and Me

This post has been inspired by yesterdays Budget and the proposal to medically assess all existing and new DLA (Disability Living Allowance) as of 2013/14. I could go on for hours about the politics of it but as I have said before I suck at writing about Politics so I am taking a look at how the changes will affect me.

As of the time of writing this the only medical assessments I have ever had to take was for work. For the last two years of my last job I pretty much had a standing appointment with the works Occupational health Doctor every 6 months. I am sure the Human Resources department thought that this guy was going to cure me of my case of the mentals. In all honesty the guy knew very little about Bipolar Disorder and he learnt more from me about the illness than I did from him. It always ended the same way, the Doctor would send a report back to HR stating that I was ill and he didn’t see that any way of that changing in the immediate future. If I went to him with a suggestion of how I could try and improve my working conditions he would include that into his letter to HR and eventually it would be acted on by them after much prodding from me. I was even sent to an off site Occupational health doctor.. ya know the ones who charge by the half hour and don’t see you if your a minute or two late. That was a waste of time because he put words in my mouth and made me think I was even crazier than I actually was, for example he asked me

“On average on a scale of 1 – 10 how bad is your depression right now”

“About an 8 but that is with anxiety of being put under the stress of this interview alone”

“OK so that’s about a 4 then?”

“Pardon I said 8”

“Yes but you mentioned the anxiety as well so that decreases the depression points”

*slaps head onto desk*

After seeing the work based doc a couple more times and having another breakdown in the June of 2008 I went off sick again and this was to be my last sick period. After much to-ing and fro-ing it was decided that the company could no longer support my absence and by mutual agreement we parted ways in the last week of September 2008. The next day I rang the DWP claims line and started my claim for Incapacity Benefit.

I had heard of nightmare stories about peoples troubles at claiming IB who had Mental Health problems. It all stemmed back to the dreaded medical that will get you every time all the people I spoke to claimed. The lady I spoke to on the claims line was really nice about everything and quite understandably had no clue what Bipolar Disorder meant or how it affects me day to day but she asked the questions and I gave the best and most honest answers I could. I gave my work history for the last 7 years and gave a potted history of my illness and how much time I had taken off because of it. She filled out the form and said that I would get an IB50 in the post to fill out and take to the Job Centre to see where it went from there. My claim was under way and the waiting was hard but the IB50 form arrived and thudded on the doormat about a week later and I just thought ” This is a nightmare… I am never going to get anything at this rate”.

I should let you know that I am VERY fortunate that I have a mother who works for the Civil Service and in her time working in the service has learnt how to fill out forms and do it well. Every form for the civil service is different but once you filled one out they all pretty much follow the same vein. So I had help with the forms. We got those filled out and I took myself (accompanied of course) to the job centre, who then made me an appointment to see an advisor in two weeks. Yet more waiting time.. I was running out of hope and money. My mind was constantly going back to the conversations I had had with others and the medical tests needed. I eventually had the Job Centre Plus interview and was told I would hear as soon as possible .

I waited and then after about a week I got a letter telling me that I had been granted Incapacity Benefit solely based on the interviews I had given and medical reports of my Pdoc and GP. My anxiety levels dropped as soon as I read that as I had gotten myself into quite a state at the thought of a grilling again and not being listened to. I had to still send in sick notes from my GP every month so I guess they were still checking up on me but after about 4 months I was told that I didn’t have to send any more in and the weekly allowance was raised to the middle tier.

I was off the hook as far as a medical was concerned and now after almost 18 months on the benefit I am the higher rate and still no medical. In the back of my mind I know that I can be called for one at any time.

Onto today’s announcement about DLA being Medically Assessed. I hope that by the time this comes into effect I will be back in work and will not need the benefit I am hoping I will be comfortable enough to go out without having to think 10 times about each road I am going to walk down and to which route I am going to have to take around each shop. It takes on average 90 minutes extra for me to go to the shop than it would for my wife to go. I have to be mildly Manic to do anything spontaneous that means leaving the house. Do you get that… I have to be CHEMICALLY out of whack to leave the house.. gee aint life grand.

I am hoping that I don’t need to claim benefits DLA or IB for much longer. But one thing is for sure. I don’t relish the thought of what will happen to me if I ever need to again after this stint. I know that ESA requires a medical and if I *sign off* of IB I will have to make a fresh claim of ESA next time.. by which time I will be in god knows what shape and will probably end up making a total hash of things and end up making Linda and I homeless in the process.

I have gone on long enough and I think I am starting to talk in circles.

For more info and other peoples takes on today’s budget announcement, I can recommend these blogs and these articles in particular:

Pandora at Serial Insomniac

@MindinFlux

Aethelread.

If you have any other good links you think I should read drop me a comment. I would love to get others views on the announcement. How will it effect you?

Until Next Time…

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