Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Saga continues

So, despite asking for a new covering letter and return envelope during the phone call yesterday, today I get an envelope containing a return envelope and a copy of their service standards. Still don't actually have any idea of when the deadline for returning the form is but it's really going to have to wait until I speak to my doctor. The service standards make for interesting reading though :-

We aim to treat all our customers in the same way. We will:
  • be friendly, fair and helpful
  • treat you with respect
  • behave professionally 
  • ensure our offices are as safe as possible for all our customers and staff, and
  • respect your privacy.
On a brighter note I did get a phone call from the Jobcenter Plus Complaints team who had listened to the original abusive call and apologised profusely for the treatment I received. Action will be taken and for once, a phone call from the Jobcenter Plus people turned out to be a rather pleasant experience.

Slightly better mood today, still rather stressed about the ESA50 though.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

An Introduction

Today I had the first of what may be many counselling sessions in a bid to understand and hopefully recover from what has been diagnosed as dysthymia. My counsellor suggested journalling which I've tried a few times but never really managed to keep it up. Perhaps having weekly sessions might motivate me to keep this one going, we'll see.

Unfortunately the DWP in their infinite wisdom have decided now is the time to review my condition and decide whether I should be placed into one of two ESA groups or kicked on to JSA and forced to get a job like the benefit scrounging scum I apparently am. Where I get placed remains to be seen but I don't really hold out much hope for getting any kind of real help in becoming a "productive" and "economically active" member of society.

Having just moved house when they sent the first ESA50 form I didn't receive it so I was completely unaware I was due to be assessed until what I can only describe as an abusive and threatening phone call from someone at Jobcenter Plus. I asked to speak to a manager and was told that someone would phone me back - that never happened but almost a week later an ESA50 form arrived in the post with no covering letter and no return envelope. It's difficult not to see that as deliberate and malicious incompetence but I'll try not to dwell on that too much.

Eventually I managed to find enough stamina to deal with a phone call to Jobcenter Plus but ended up wishing I hadn't bothered. After spending 30 minutes or so on hold and being passed from pillar to post from one department to another I eventually found out that they only grant extensions in "exceptional" circumstances so whatever deadline was on the original correspondence is the deadline for filling in the form. The person I spoke to was incredibly patronising and unhelpful with implications that, because they pay me benefits, when they say jump I should ask how high. This led me to ask to speak to a manager yet again and surprisingly I did later receive a phone call from a manager who, while she maintained a pleasant tone, pretty much went with the party line of lecturing me on what I should and shouldn't do as a benefit claimant. I've been told the phone calls will be listened to and I should receive a response to my complaint in 10 days or so. Apparently my original complaint about the abusive and threatening phone call was never logged ...

None of this is particularly good for my mental well being and right now I feel the beginnings of another spiral into despair and self loathing. Somehow in the midst of that I have to find the strength to deal with an assessment of my ability to work by people with no knowledge of my medical history and a Daily Mail fuelled agenda to force "scroungers" to work for a living. I've been kicked off Incapacity Benefit before but I had it reinstated after I won my appeal which awarded me the extra 2 points I needed to remain classified as unfit for work - that's really not an experience I want to repeat. The appeal process took almost a year and had a majorly detrimental effect on my mental health. Recovering from that to the point where I felt able to look at ways I could potentially get off benefits and move towards finding a way to support myself and my family took longer. Right when I reach that point and get to the top of the waiting list for counselling they're about to pull the rug from under me ... again.