Its all a bit strange not being able to talk openly or on social media about going through my WCA, but I decided that if I did mention it in public while its going on that it might be someone ensures I have a 'text book' perfect assessment process. I feel I owe it to people like Karen Sherlock to go through this in the same way everyone does - like being launched into a game of roulette where claimants are the ball and its sheer chance as to whether things will work out the way they should. Not being able to use social media means not being able to get emotional support and advice as readily, but it feels like the right thing to do.
The dreaded brown envelope arrived, or more accurately I arrived to the brown envelope - having gone to friends for the weekend to escape the stress of social services refusing my entire support package, I got home to find the friendly DWP 'its time for your WCA' missive sitting there staring at me accusingly. Its safe to say the anxiety instantly returned and started to reproduce at a speed bacteria would be proud of. So far 2013 has done its damndest to beat me into submission, and the combined stress of a social care appeal at the same time as going through the Work Capability Assessment is not something I'm relishing.
A few days after the letter I had the promised phone call from the DWP to explain what was happening. Ever so nice she was, Gwen from the valleys and I'm sure she enjoyed hearing me yelp in pain down the phone as part of my spine made a bid for freedom. After a short delay due to the failure of DWP's computer system, during which I pondered how that boded really well for the imminent launch of Universal Credit, Gwen phoned back and we got down to business. Well, she did. I kept quiet and pretended I knew nothing about welfare to see what was I told. I was told that Gwen needed to explain the changes to my benefits, that Employment Support Allowance was to provide support to disabled people to work, which was an interesting scripted spin there from the DWP. Had I not known that ESA was also to provide support to people who are too sick or disabled to work I would have thought I was being told to apply for the wrong benefit. Gwen told me I had to fill in the form, that I was welcome to add as much extra evidence as I liked, but that I must be aware my benefits would be stopped if I didn't complete it.
Gwen went on to explain that I might have to attend a face to face work capability assessment, and that I should assume I'd have to go to an assessment because that was part of the process. She said that if I did have to attend someone would phone to arrange a time and day, that I could take someone with me to help but that if I didn't attend my benefits would be affected. Afterwards someone from the DWP would phone and give me their decision. She wanted to know if I had any extra access needs, so we had a slightly confused conversation (on her part) about ramp access and made sure she wrote down I was a wheelchair user. The final point was to ensure that if I don't receive the forms by March 15th that I phone to chase them up.
All relatively comprehensive, if through a DWP prism of 'you will attend, you will get into work'. So being a well trained disabled I made some phone calls, to my GP to arrange a phone appointment to discuss the form and to my physio to ask her to write a letter I can send in with the form. I've been collecting medical evidence for the last year or so from consultants who've seen me and stated they can't treat the problem because there isn't a treatment, but all those documents are more than six months old so can't officially be considered by the assessor.
I spoke to my GP this morning and asked if he would write a letter to support my application. He said I am to wait til the forms themselves arrive then pop in to the surgery and he'll dictate it there and then. I'm hoping this means dictate a letter not he'll fill the actual form in itself, but I'm very reassured by his attitude to the assessment so far. Although, I can't help but wonder what the point of an assessment process is for those claimants who are called in so their own doctor can go through the questions and provide evidence with them...that seems awfully close to an actual assessment to me.
But, what do I know? I'm just disabled and in receipt of welfare, asking someone like me to help improve the system would just be silly.