Employment and support allowance

Having suffered with my employer and my depression caused by my continued battle with getting to grips with my deteriorating eye condition and having to learn to use a new form of accessible software that I didn’t feel ready for, I had been on long term sick leave since October 2012. In February this year, after a lot of thinking, adjustments and not very successful adjustments, I was let go from my position on medical grounds.

This did not in fact cause me any great upset, as I had come to the conclusion that my current role was not the one for me.

It was the thought of accepting my eye condition and applying for the government benefit, for people like me who are unable to work…. Employment and Support allowance, often referred to as ESA.

So with the help of two great friends, I started the process. The first part was easy, just a quick phone call to get the ball rolling.

Then arrived the assessment form.

A very thick form that covers every single question that the team assessing the claim may ever need the answer to to assess each and eery possible disability and illness that may occur.

It asks the basics about who I am, what is wrong and then it asks questions specific to different areas, such as mobility, dexterity, cognitive, emotional, mental, sensory and ability to cope.

As I have commented on before and one part of me that I am not afraid to admit or share, is that with my eye condition I have suffered with depression. So for me completing the form took into account my mental health and mood in addition and hand in hand with my eye condition.

This was the hard bit…… I had already arranged for a friend to physically complete the form for me as I was unable to see it clearly enough. But I had never factored in how hard it was going to be to actually answer the questions.

Talking about me, how my disability affects me and more so how this makes my mood and the affects on my daily life caused me to break down.

Having always suffered with an eye condition I struggle to eplain it clearly. I can talk about how it has changed and detail things that I know I can no longer do having done them before, but having never seen the world through perfect eyes, my explanation of my basic eye condition is one that is mainly technical.

It was the saying it outloud to someone esle and admitting the strugle that was the hard part, the very soul destroying upsetting part. The part that those without an understanding of me would struggle to understand.

(I can sit here and type this blog, because to me those who read it are faceless and in me writing this I am hopefully helping someone like me or even not like me to understand that these things happen.)

The other aspect of the form that I was aware of from others was the wording and detail that was required to enable a true understanding to be given to the assessor, after all the person reading this would hold no medical training or understanding of me, other than the answers that they had in front of them.

Thankfully I was lucky and had a wonderful friend who was prepared for this and he was able to help me to explain myself in a clearer way. All of the answers on my form were my own, he did not answer anyting for me, he did however turn my verbal answers into ones that were more readable and less conversation like.

So….. The application and the additional sheets of paper and information went off, a few weeks later a letter for an appointment arrived to see a medical assessor to answer more questions, to be assessed as to if I were or weren’t in fact capable to work and if I weren’t to what extent.

Other than having a friend drive me to the appointment and walk me to the correct part of the building, I undertook the appointment alone.

Many of the questions were about my sight, what I could and couldn’t see, then came the explanation of daily life, looking after my children, my house, my mood and my guide dog.

I had heard horror stories from friends how they had been grilled about personal details, how even those who struggled so much more than me had been deemed fit to work. I felt that I had been interogated to a degree because of how I look after my children, try to be a ‘normal’ mum, yet on the other hand I am trying to explain that I can’t go to work on a daily basis.

I left the appointment feeling that I had been judged and that I had failed the questions and the assessment.

So it was with complete and utter shock 3 weeks later that I received a letter explaining that they felt the severity of my disability and my mental health deemed me unfit to work, it was also felt that I was also not required to carry out work focused training and was placed within a support group.

This was a major weight lifted from my shoulders, it meant that I had the security of money coming in through the benefit and allowed me to concentrate on my life, my children, my health and moving forward.

So, moving forward is exactly what I am doing.

Having read other blogs, I am very aware that my experience of the ‘benefit system’ is very unusual. I am up for a reassessment in November, so maybe then I will have to fight for my entitlement. But for now for once there is no fight to be had, for which I have a great thanks to give to my friends who supported me through the process at a time when I did not even approach my family for fear of upsetting them.

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