How the D.W.P is giving me the pip…
by Pseud O'Nym
Earlier this month, I received an invitation from The Department of Work and Pensions (D.W.P) to apply for my very own Personal Independence Plan (P.I.P). This the much heralded, long overdue and much criticized successor to Disability Living Allowance (D.L.A). On second thoughts however, invitation is the wrong word. I could of course, not to apply for P.I.P. but as D.L.A is being phased out, not doing so would leave me financially challenged.
Now I have no problem whatsoever with the principal of the D.W.P taking reasonable steps to ensure that those claiming P.I.P are entitled to do so. After all, it is taxpayer’s money and they have a duty – some might say a moral obligation – to ask questions of potential claimants. But here’s the rub. It behooves those asking deeply personal questions to ensure that answering them is as hassle free as possible.
Let me explain.
I have a speech defect which makes communication on the ‘phone difficult. So when I got the P.I.P application form, I asked my support worker to call the D.W.P. Now the D.W.P had written to me, so it was something of a shock to discover that for the first ten minutes of the call was spent with her giving them information about me they already had. My support worker had put the call on speakerphone, meaning that my ears were befouled by the D.W.P operative who had cunningly removed any trace of emotion from her voice. It was almost as if she had disassociated herself from what she was asking; maybe she’d been asking them for so long they were just individual words that made sense on their own, but were devoid of any meaning when put together in a sentence.
My support worker pointed out that ‘phone communication isn’t ideal for me. By way of explanation she drew attention to the fact that she was making the call on my behalf. Eventually, it was revealed that yes, someone could help me fill out the form. Except they were located somewhere else, which necessitated yet another long call to arrange. Or so I thought. Despite repeated calls to the D.W.P and assurances given that yes a referral was made, so far this has has yet to happen.
And this got me thinking that I can’t be the only one who needs help filling the form in. Is it so farfetched to think that by dint of moving across from D.L.A to P.I.P, some potential claimants might need additional help? People with cognitive or mental health issues? Or those with learning difficulties, etc? Had no-one considered that possibility? So I have to fill in the form myself – in point of fact others do, I merely dictate, as my handwriting looks like looks like the work of a paralytic having tried to write a letter whilst on a waterbed – which isn’t the most edifying of ways to spend one’s time.
It’s essentially disability porn inasmuch as the more I detail I provide regarding the many, varied and demeaning ways my disability affects me, the greater the likelihood of me getting P.I.P. Each of the questions is designed in such a way as to compel me to provide additional information. Which only forces me to think about situations and events I’d rather not think about let alone share. And given that my only constant is my inconsistency, I’ll share some of my week with you.
On Thursday night, my lack of fine motor skills decided it was time to forcefully re-introduce themselves to me, when I was trying to transfer my meal from the microwave to my rollator. This resulted in the plate doing a good impersonation of when someone is trying throw a vase on a potter’s wheel and it all goes wrong. The plate wobbled frantically and a few seconds later it was splattered all over the kitchen floor. I sat down as a tsunami of depression carried me off. The horrifying reality of my situation was with brutal clarity revealed to me. Much like a tsunami it was as relentless as it was inevitable; by that I mean I was complicit in my own torment, I knew my weak points and my mind fully exploited them. As I stared at the food on my trainers whilst feeling utterly worthless, not for time I regretted having woken up from the coma. Had I not, I would’ve been spared all this, this not living but existing. I have no recollection of what it feels like to run or be happy for example. I know I must’ve been these things and many more, but accessing what they felt like? No.
I can’t recall feeling good about myself, which is a terrible admission; terrible but sadly true. Thus for longer than is healthy, the inexorable spiral of negativity continued downward until I was consumed by the thought that if someone could give me a pill that would end it all, I would’ve gladly taken it.
Thankfully such morbid thinkings were curtailed by Amy, our new and rather fantastic new housemate. She saw the mess in the kitchen, asked if there was anything she could do to help and at my behest, cleared up the mess as thoroughly as she was cheerful about it. Writing about it now, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal, but her timely intervention was the equivalent of someone managing to stop a runaway train moments before it ploughs into a school.
But how do you put that on a form? How does one explain the thought processes involved in getting one to such a point of abject despair? How does one explain that for reasons of necessity one has become an emotional iceberg? Exactly what formulation of words can adequately convey the quagmire of emotions that suddenly manifested themselves after my vomitus last night, when my bedroom and toilet floors were the canvases for my stomach’s homage to Jackson Pollock?