Monday, 3 December 2012

Letter to the papers.

I sent this letter to the Independent today:


Dear Sir,

Because of life-long and now worsening mental health problems, I renewed a claim for benefits recently. Following an assessment interview by ATOS for DWP, I have just had my claim turned down. It was cited, inter alia, that I could maintain eye contact. Otherwise, much of the report bore little relation - in letter or in spirit - to evidence I had offered.

The interview and the letter informing me of its outcome were so odd that I made enquiries. 

It turned out that the person who interviewed me, whom they called 'Doctor', by whose assessment of my mental state my life will be profoundly affected, is in fact a physiotherapist.

And whatever Thierry Breton, ATOS boss, may claim about consultation with patients' own doctors during assessments ("How can ATOS boss get £1million?"), nobody has been in touch with my GP. An ATOS agent told me that assessment is made 'on the basis of the day'.

I am warned that I am very foolish to put my head above the parapet by writing to you. I'll tell you: I'm struggling with the horror and despair caused by my illness, resisting the relentless impulse to hurt myself (I won't do anything, but that doesn't ameliorate the impulse); nothing that anyone can do to damage me means much next to that. In any case, I'm thinking that I may be too drained of resources to try to appeal - even though I know that IDS, or somebody, will offer that failure to do so as proof that the assessment was correct (as they have done again and again with defeated claimants).

What I report to you here is a very small part of the weirdness and, frankly, occasional nastiness which started the day I was informed that I was to be assessed. I am lucky enough to be a bit more articulate (if not resilient) than some people in my position, so I will say to you for them: you had better be sure that you want to reject us, or at least know us to be the parasitical scroungers that are portrayed, because what's being done to us is contemptible. 

Yours etc.


Whether they'll publish, I don't know - it's certainly not really in the house style!

My reasons for writing are complex, but seemed to me compelling. More over the next few days... 

Added 12 hours later

On reflection: The last two paragraphs were... intemperate... and probably ensured that the letter would not be published. Stuff it.

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