Friday, April 26, 2013

Tick Box Torture #esa

I couldn't put it off any longer, if I'm to get my ESA50 filled in, collate appropriate supporting evidence and manage to post it back to the DWP in time, then the questions had to be answered regardless of my inability to sit up straight and focus.

Whilst I'm not a welfare rights advisor, I have a pretty decent working knowledge of how to fill in benefits forms and have plenty of people I can ask to help me - its much more difficult to fill in your own benefits application than someone else's. So, I recruited a friend who knows me well and could interject everytime I tried to insist I could do an activity by pointing out that actually, reality means I can't.

I'm often mystified by the time and attention paid to how distressing filling out an ESA form is...of course it is, so is filling out a DLA form, so was filling out the old Incapacity Benefit forms. Whilst ESA has the added extra stress of knowing the system is designed to redefine the level of sickness or disability which qualifies for social security support, applying for any health related benefit is a miserable business as its the only time in life claimants are forced to reflect on all the things they can't do and focus just on the negative. Even if the DWP sent out forms with kits containing fluffy blankies, hot chocolate and HCP's with tepid flannels to soothe our fevered brows as they assessed us it would still be a depressing process to go through because at no other time in life do people have to focus on how completely incapable they are.

From that you can safely assume answering the questions was a dismal process. There were tears, sobbing, snivelling and snot, with a side order of occasional screeching "I'm not that crap, I'm not, I'm not" while my friend patiently and consistently pointed out that I could not describe lying on a beanbag as a functional ability to sit up. Ok, so my friend is right, its not a functional ability to sit up and there aren't too many activities in life which don't demand an ability to sit and stand properly, or workplaces providing beanbags, naps and oramorph on tap, but I was in full blown ESA hysteria and didn't care. Fortunately my friend won and sensible answers were written which didn't include any "fuck you DWP, I'm awesome and can do everything, oh but please give me enough points for support group because actually I'm not too sure I can follow through on my can do everything committment"

The biggest source of stress was the tickboxes. OMG the tick boxes. Also, who the hell do the DWP get to write these forms, someone who only speaks English as a 15th language?! The tickboxes requiring a tick took more time to work out than any of the free text answers. The free text answers were depressing, but at least relatively straightforward to write - I have EDS, my muscles are exceptionally weak, this causes dislocations without trauma, pain, fatigue etc, but did I mention the OMG the tick boxes issue? I've got a law degree, I've had the odd article published in the national press, generally I think my language skills are reasonable, but could I work out what the right box to tick for the questions were? Could I heck. It was bad enough trying to work out whether the right answer was 'no' or 'it varies' but on many of the questions it was hideously difficult to comprehend whether a no answer meant I couldn't complete that activity or whether the question was so (deliberately) badly worded that actually answering no meant yes.

Most of the sobbing, shrieking incidents were prompted by tick boxes. Bloody, bloody boxes. I miss the longer forms, the longer forms with less bloody tick boxes and enough space to come close to explaining the issues meaning you're not fit enough for work.

But at least I now have an answer to go in each box. Ok, I might not like the answers and prefer to live in the cosy world of denial where I can tell myself I could totes be a Paralympian if I start training now, but that's not the point, there are answers. Now all I have to do is make sure those answers get taped into the right boxes and get to my GP so he can do a letter confirming that its all true.

That bit requires getting out of the house to work to other people's timing and not remaining horizontal on a beanbag convincing myself that makes me fully functional...



5 comments:

DavidG said...

This, oh so much this!

I'm a software engineer, when I worked our processes were literally graded as world class and I wrote large chunks of them. I've designed forms, I've written guides on how to fill forms in, and the ESA50 had me beating my head against a wall.

Anonymous said...

I was in the middle of a DPhil in Chemical Physics when I had to face reality a term studying and gradually falling to
peices and then a term off to recover enough to go back was unsustainable and I was exhausted from crying over always letting people down because my body had let me down and I couldn't make it stop.
But the tick boxes on that ESA for were head wrecking. As was having the start of the question on one page, go to question x+1 in bold next to it but the box for your comments nearly always on the back of the page with the questions your were meant to be responding too. I have serious concentration difficulties this really didn't help.

john said...

the form is just the start wait until the appeal interview.
one doctor actually had the temerity to ask how we managed our sex life. my reply was like hedgehogs (the ex also suffered with eds)she said pardon so raising my voice slightly carefully no more questions was the reply lol

MW said...

The form is terrible, the questions ambiguous - as you say which box to tick, maybe - possibly - sometimes?
I did mine all wrong - rushed it because we were moving house the next day and I was in a panic (when am I not).
Never had face to face assessment, now waiting for appeal date, mental hell!
I wish you all the luck in the world for yours:-)

Rogr said...

Assessments are hell so good luck! Your comment about UC triggered a memory that I finally tracked down. There is a sample UC calculator available online at this link - http://policyinpractice.co.uk/universal-credit/universal-credit-calculator/#
Well worth a try, especially when you discover it makes disability payments out to be means tested.