Friday, 21 April 2017

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear

When your life is in danger because of your health condition, you have been in hospital for weeks and fought with every last cell in your body for your life. When you have struggled to sit up, then to walk again, to regain some autonomy. When you have finally got to go home to your family, you feel like that should be the end of your fight. You are wounded, it is life changing, it has robbed you of your career, your hobbies, your very identity. You dont know who you are or what your life now holds. Its all too much to bear, and at first you struggle against it, maybe you go back to work for abit and try to live "normally". But your body swiftly reminds you that you cant live your life like you used to and smacks you back down. The struggle of loosing your career deserves a whole article dedicated to it, you create your own personal hell yearning for your old life.

 However that isn't the end to your suffering, having suffered from PTSD due to near death experiences, please realise that I don't say it lightly that the current benefits system causes intense psychological trauma. Already suffering from the grief of loosing your old life and coming to terms with the new state of affairs, the government then takes this opportunity to dangle your home, food, safety, in front of you and make you *prove* that you really are deserving of their benefit.

Some will say, "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear", first and always, remember that that is a Nazi slogan perpetuated by Joseph Goebbels.

The current system for assessment of sick benefits (ESA) and disability benefits (PIP) is loosely based on the infamous Roper Logan and Tierney activities of daily living, which every good nurse should know inside out. This may seem like a great thing to base such assessments on, as this is the well known and used assessment process used by health services around the globe. It looks at each core *activity* and assesses the individuals ability and needs. However the current government assessments are, in my view, a bastardised version of this assessment criteria. Rewritten by non medical workers, to ensure a smaller amount of successful claims.

Talking of non medical workers involvement in the assessments, the "decision maker" who decides if you make the criteria to deserve financial help, is not medically trained. This practice is not ethically sound and is what, in my view leads to the highest number of legitimate claims being turned away. Firstly you are assessed face to face by a medically trained person, from various backgrounds, paramedic, physiotherapist, nurse, then their report, backed by a private company, is sent to the decision maker who has the last say.

In my experience of the face to face assessments, the people doing the assessments have a deep seated contempt for the benefit claimant. They talk to them as if they are a prison warden, one such assessor barked at my friend under assessment to sit up straight in his chair, which he couldnt do, due to his medical conditions. They take the idea that they are investigating to find the lie that is being told. Not assessing sick, disabled and dying people to award an appropriate amount of benefit to meet their needs.

A quick work about *benefits*, the word needs to be changed, they aren't *benefits*, a benefit is free gym membership with work or Tesco clubcard points. I have worked for years for the NHS, I have paid taxes for years, when I need support because I am too sick to work and have a disabled child to care for, that isn't a benefit, it is a human right. When someone has never worked because they *cant* providing them with a home, food, heat, that is not a *benefit* that is basic human dignity and the mark of a civilised society. My daughter cant leave the house without a £350 wheelchair, that isn't a benefit, it is a necessity.

I had to apply three times before I was awarded disability, three times I had to be treated like a criminal my a heartless assessor. Three times I had to wait for the post everyday for *weeks* to find out if we were going to have enough money to pay for the basic essentials, then cry and try and work out what we were going to have to go without. By the end of those three times I suffered a nervous breakdown, I turned up to the assessment a broken shell of my previous self. Unable to string together a sentence, then I was finally awarded the disability. If felt like Red in the Shawshank Redemption, granted parole when my spirit had been broken. It took me months to get over that ordeal, 2.5 years later, I am up for reassessment and I don't think I have the strength to go through it again. I am a single mum of two kids, one who is disabled, with no support, I cant be having a breakdown because I'm being repeatedly put through this twisted system. So I guess I will have to decide what we will have to go without.