Apologises for the extra blog, I meant to post it yesterday but I have been far too busy to do so. Such is life it seems these days.
A lady that comes to speak to me at our demo every week had an appointment to attend her ESA assessment. I asked her if she had a family member or a friend that could take her but she said that she didn’t, and the reason why I asked this is because it’s always best if a person that knows them well attends the medical with them. This is because they know the person far better than any person from an outside organisation can ever do. However, we do offer very good advice on how to handle the so called medical etc. This is essential.
Because this wasn’t possible, I volunteered myself to accompany her. I didn’t have the money to do so, but at the time her needs came first. Shes very vulnerable and I certainly didnt want her to go into the lions den so to speak alone. She is also a very quiet, shy person and has refused to access other local organisations. So I accompanied her, much to her relief.
I met her to start our journey which wasn’t a short one. She was understandably nervous and anxious so I did my best to reassure her that I would look after her to the best of my abilities, which I did.
I’m sure that my readers are aware of how horrible these so called medicals are. It’s not just having the medical, its also the journey there and the building itself. The DWP like to choose places that can look intimidating and sparsely furnished.
Albert Bridge House, the assessment centre that we had the misfortune to have to visit. The entrance itself is round the corner, but they don’t make it easy to find. But I suspect that’s the intention isn’t it.
Upon attending a medical like this, the assessment process often starts before you enter the building. As in the case of the Manchester assessment centre, there are cameras outside watching you arrive and leave. They say that they don’t but whilst waiting with the lady in the waiting area, I clearly heard the receptionist say to a man “Well, we saw you arrive in a taxi”. Unless they had seen this on a screen inside, this wouldn’t have been possible.
So beware of this, make a note and remember.
Upon entering we were met by two G4S security guards, this adds to the feeling of oppression and intimidation and does nothing to give a person confidence. The reception desk is behind clear plastic, and the staff quite rude.
A person isn’t greeted, or asked if they are ok. Considering that they are dealing with sick and disabled people, they should show a glimmer of concern. Instead a clipboard is thrusted into your hands through a gap in the plastic, and they say with no understanding “Fill this in”. It states that they want to see a persons proof of identity, although nothing is said about this on the letter that the person receives. I pointed this out to them and they said fill it in anyway. I did this for the lady, but they offered no help, or even asked if she was able to do so.
The building itself is old, shabby and harks back to a time, probably the 1960’s and 1970’s. There’s lines of chairs in poor condition, one water fountain (which is a new edition, it wasn’t there the last time that I visited) and basic toilets. Everything is dark wood and shabby carpets long past their best. The only nice thing about the room is that it has big windows, looking out across the road where upper class housing is being built. This is tragic, rubbing their noses in it I thought.
We found a spot in a corner at the back of the room, I was trying to make the whole awful experience less daunting for her. She struggles in crowded spaces and felt more at ease there.
As soon as we sat down, a young man stormed out of his assessment. He was shouting and was angry, which was very understandable. He told the room full of people that he has a mental health illness, that he struggles. He went into his assessment and was asked to move his arms and legs. He was asked NOTHING about his mental health. He knew that they were going to fail him and as he stated, and as we know, he wasn’t given a medical relevant to his condition. They saw him and decided that they would fail him. He went on to tell everyone sat in the room to challenge everything, to appeal and to do what I do. Expose every wrongdoing that they are guilty of. He was then walked out of the building by the security guards.
I don’t want to scare anyone, but this is how easy it is for a person to loose everything. A so called medical ‘nurse’ deciding that they are going to wrongly assess a person. This is why it is very important to take the assesors name, qualification and the medical body on which they operate under. These are all vital details needed to make a complaint and appeal. Also, if you are able, write a transcript of the medical when you arrive back home.
Whilst waiting, I heard a woman complaining that she had waited for over a hour, had travelled 45 minutes to get there and she couldn’t stay any longer because she couldn’t cope anymore. She made another appointment and left.
In front of us a woman was half sat, half lying down on a couple of chairs. She was curled up in a ball and was obviously unable to cope with being there.
An 81 year old woman was wheeled into the room by her carer. I had no idea of her circumstances but theres no way on this earth that an 81 year old woman should have to attend a medical. No one should have to attend a medical like this.
Towards the right to us, there was a lady clutching hold of her carer, rocking back and forth talking to herself. Her carer was furious that she had to attend and told me that it will take her weeks, if not a month to get over this experience.
Further down, there was a woman sat with her partner. She looked very nervous and wasn’t talking to anyone. When her name was called, she refused the offer of help from her partner to go in the assessment with her. I really hope that they didn’t fail her but the odds were stacked against her.
Sat at the front, near the reception a woman was sat silently looking at the ground, bewildered, unsure of why she was there and what was going to happen. She was also on her own.
A lady was sat with her carer to the right of us, asleep. She had to be woke up to attend her assessment.
All of these people were clearly too ill and disabled to attend this so called medical. They clearly shouldn’t have to attend, no one should. Their consultants or doctors assessment and diagnoses of their conditions should enough, it always used to be. This process is designed purposely to humiliate and degrade a person, to make them feel unworthy and to question their illness or disability. I’m sure that most people leaving these assessments leave under a dark cloud of depression, stress and worry.
As for the lady that I accompanied, we waited two hours, she had a panic attack and I had to rearrange the appointment.
This folks is the reality of this cruel system, and this is exactly why I will continue to fight it. No one deserves to be treated like this. The whole DWP system in the form that it exists in now kills people. How many more deaths is it going to take before people take notice. This needs to become a priority, and soon.
Footnote; This is not the first time that I have attended a medical with someone, and it won’t be the last time either. I just wanted to share this experience. It is not my intention to scare anyone, but reality is reality and it needs sharing.
I do this at my own expense, and this week I have had to make the decision of heat or eat myself. I had to choose eat, the emergency gas will have to last. If I don’t blog tomorrow, it means that my internet has been disconnected due to non payment, and I have no credit on my telephone either. I will access free wifi at Ikea on Friday if this is the case. Once again I’m just stating the reality of the situation, and the situation is the same for thousands of people.
Be the kindness that you want to see in this world.
I featured on the Adrian Chiles show on Radio 5 Live on monday. Here is the link. This was recorded outside Ashton Jobcentre last Tuesday.
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