writing365 #19 customer service and the downhill claimant journey

There are probably a few potential candidates for this prompt from either end of the scale, best or worst experience of ‘customer service’…

Probably the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced, unsurprisingly to some, has been from Jobcentreplus and ATOS. In the summer of 2012 I had to attend a medical assessment, like most Employment Support Allowance claimants.

Things I said were recorded incorrectly, such as having said that I often couldn’t shower as I needed to save energy and was so exhausted after showering that I’d sleep for two to three hours or more, this was recorded as ‘not showering as likes to save money on electric’. I didn’t realise at the time but the report the assessing nurse made was accessed later in the day according to the detail on my copy and was probably altered. It stated that during the assessment I said that I had lower back pain every day, though I never said that.

It was two years before I was well enough to see what was contained in these documents that I had read before and not noticed – including that I’d been assessed for a lower back problem. I had never had a lower back problem and thus passing the assessment as ‘fit for work’ while my actual diagnosed condition wasn’t taken into account.

I’d been experiencing another decline in my health during 2012, brought on this time by injury and circumstances I’d not yet realised at my new home I’d recently moved to (carbon-monoxide related illness). Less than a month after my assessment, at a muscular dystrophy charity fund-raising event I helped at, some people seemed to think I looked really ill and must have M.D. – I was wearing the charity T-shirt as a helper – my grandson has a diagnosis of Duchennes M.D.

The most stupid thing about this whole muddle is that I attended a tribunal unaware of the focus of that assessment, having not yet been well enough to cope with paperwork or spot those details. So a judge and doctor decided that decision was correct. I was apparently expected to eat ready-meals to be unfit for work, use taxis I had no money for rather than catch a bus. I was expected to at least be taking paracetamol for pain management when I feel the cold and it lowers my temperature and affects my liver function too. These and other over-the-counter painkillers are ineffective and cause problems, so why would I take them?

My doctor refuses me prescription pain relief and only wishes me to try medicine that has previously made me so ill that I didn’t know myself anymore, or what day of the week it was. I’m expected to try that again first before we try anything else. I don’t have anyone else at home to make sure I’m safe if I try these types of poison again. Not receiving prescription medicine affects decision-making regarding my claim.

My essential health costs aren’t considered medicinal by decision makers even though they make a tremendous symptomatic difference – not enough in a hurry to be a miraculous return to fitness for full-time work. I’ve never had that level of recovery since I was thirteen years old and had very severe illness with my neurological/immune disease.

I also haven’t had a lifetime of disability benefits because I worked part-time when I could work at all and later was dependant on a partner who worked. DLA claims failed because I had no help and was too ill to appeal. So I am not evidenced in the eyes of the welfare system as having the lifelong disability I have actually experienced.

In 2012, before and after my flawed assessment, I had sent emails of muddled information and writing things I normally wouldn’t to jobcentreplus like ‘thanks a f***ing lot!…’ when they deducted money for water rates. Apparently if you send an email once or twice a month to manage your urgent essential correspondence while you can’t hand-write and post letters you are fit for work. (Yes I know I am making things worse for myself now for using my computer more often now my brain has woken up, even though my body is letting me down worse now.)

i still haven’t been able to rectify that 2012 false assessment issue and this shambles is still used as the evidence base for my current claim. I’ve had to get further and further into debt for three years while they tell me I’m fit for work and only receiving the basic allowance while my health declines further and further in different ways.

For six months of that last three years I was left with no income at all, with no savings and just getting into further debt to be able to survive for six months over winter. That’s why my health is so bad this year. I had to sleep wearing a woolly hat, the house was cold enough to keep milk fresh for five days not in a fridge – I had to turn that off for having not enough food and to afford the little bit of heat to make sure the kitchen was warm enough for my dog.

Now I can’t borrow any more money I can no longer afford the £20 to £30 it costs for those nutritional supplements that helped improve my energy and even reduced some types of pain. Affording those costs previously allowed me to get out at least a couple of times a week for training and voluntary work for a few hours. I saw it as good use of work-related-activity component.

I should have been in the support group with my level of illness but had never contended my work-related activity group placing because I still hoped to make better progress toward work. Now my baseline of activity is so low I’m mostly bedbound for most of the day at least half the week or more and completely housebound most of most weeks. 

The other stupid thing is that the people working these welfare service jobs are dependant on their clients, the service users, for their work. Their customer, the government, is apparently happily for us all to be weakened and killed off. This apparently makes the tax-payer happiest in reducing ‘the burden of ‘welfare’.

Rant over, hopefully…

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