Today I want to share with you my ridiculous experience with Atos. In May, I was called for a work capability assessment (WCA) to assess my eligibility for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Obviously I was worried, there's been a lot of horror stories about people who are far more disabled than me being judged fit to work. Anyway, the DWP decided after the assessment that I was eligible for ESA and put me in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). This basically means that they don't expect me to apply for jobs right away, but they expect to move into paid employment in the future. I was happy with this decision. I do think I will be able to do some work in the future - but I do need support and time to get ready for work. I was also relieved because I knew I wouldn't be eligible for Job Seeker's Allowance - unless I flat out lie about the way my disability affects me.
Anyway, all was fine and dandy, I attended my first work focussed interview with a lady from the job centre, and it was very positive. We both agreed that applying for voluntary work would be a good place to start with - it'd build up my self esteem, and allow me to test out my work capabilities. I've never worked (I couldn't manage studying for my degree and working so I have no idea what my kind of work is suitable or how many hours I can work. I do know that I will need support to work, I've needed support throughout my life - both in personal care and education- so it's totally unrealistic to expect myself to enter employment without needing support.
About a week ago I received another esa50 form in the post, to reassess my eligibility for ESA. I initially thought it was a mistake, so I rang the DWP to ask if it was a mistake - and the lady said 'no it's not a mistake, your condition has a six month prognosis'. Flabbergast, I requested a copy of my WCA assessment to see what had been written.
Anyway, a copy of the report arrived this morning, and in black and white it says 'I advise that work could be considered in six months' the reason given for this was 'The client's level of disability would be expected to improve'. (For some reason I can't upload the picture of the letter, but it's on my twitter @thisisamy_)
The person who assessed me was a qualified doctor. I'm unbelievably shocked that they have written that they expect my level of disability to improve. The first rule of cerebral palsy is that it doesn't improve. If you're lucky it stays the same. For me, it is a constant battle of surgery, splints, botox injections and physio to remain as mobile as I am now. My function won't improve because my brain has permanent damage that means my affected limbs are paralysed. Even non medically qualified people are able to understand that my condition won't improve. Indeed, my cerebral palsy is worsening, my body is struggling to cope with this disability. At the moment, if I have one 'busy' day my body takes a full two days to recover. This isn't meant to be a sob story, this is just my reality. This doctor seems to think my disability will improve within six months. There's no chance. I'll be lucky if my pain and fatigue that I get from my CP hasn't increased. I know full time work will never be an option, I'm not sure how many hours I could cope with at work before pain and fatigue becomes unbearable. That's why I need to do my voluntary work so I can see what my limitations are. In the meantime, I'm going to be reassessed every 6 months to see if my CP has improved - the stress this causes me is ridiculous. It's heightened even further because I know if my ESA is removed I won't be able to apply for JSA, so it's an all or nothing scenario.