I tried to write something on the ESA50 stress.
I wouldve probably talked technical and descriptors and deception, trickery and probably got a bit too tied in my own emotions last time i filled mine out. I'm due another one soon. But Vanessa said she was writing something on the problems with the ESA50 and I said yep, THAT would be the blog piece i was planning... So here it is ,
Thanks to Vanessa Teal for this ...
What's the Problem with the ESA50?
If you know anyone with a physical or mental illness or disability you will eventually hear them talking about filling in an ESA50 and how much of a struggle it is. The ESA50 is the first step in claiming or renewing your claim for Employment Support Allowance, the benefit for people too ill or disabled to work. Its it the first stage in deciding whether someone is 'fit for work'. Everyone who fills this form in finds the experience damaging and people who have never had to fill in a form like this can find this difficult to understand.
Most of us with illnesses and disabilities have our own coping strategies and one of the main ones is mindset. We focus on the positives, on the things we can still do, on the good things in our lives however meagre or simple. Although we're very aware of our limitations we don't spend long periods focusing on them - that's a recipe for despair and hopelessness.
The form entails explaining in intimate detail just how pathetic, inadequate and completely useless you are and how limited, humiliating and basically worthless your life is. (I can hear clamours of disagreement and people rushing to tell me this isn't the case but that's how the form makes you feel.) Its a form which takes days or weeks to fill in completely rather than minutes or hours. If you have problems with writing or typing or if your cognitive ability is impaired it takes even longer. That's a long time to focus intently on the negatives and even when you're not actually filling it in you're thinking about it, worrying about it, dwelling on it. The stress permeates everything.
Its a process which makes you think about the future and that's a problem in itself. For anyone with an illness or disability in the current climate of austerity the future is frightening and uncertain. We try not to dwell on it too much, taking one day at a time, living life in manageable chunks. This form reminds us that we're not likely to find a job anytime soon (if ever), that we're totally dependent on a benefit system which regards us as cheats and scroungers. It reminds us how precarious our existence is.
As you fill it in you can't help but think about what happens next. The demeaning and humiliating Work Capability Assessment where an 'Atos Healthcare Professional' who may know next to nothing about your condition tries to prove that you're lying. The report which that Healthcare Professional and a tick box computer system prepares - which may be accurate or may be a complete fabrication. The wait for the DWP envelope which contains your fate. The possibility that the money you rely on to live will be cut off at a stroke leaving you to face the nightmare of the appeals process. Or, if you can't face the appeal, to sink or swim on Job Seekers Allowance, facing never-ending financial sanctions for being too sick to jump through the necessary hoops.
The final cruelty of the ESA50 is that it comes in an innocuous looking white envelope. The form which will render useless your coping strategies, strip away your dignity and hope and put your future life in jeopardy sneaks into your home quietly and unannounced.
Just like all the best assassins.
Mine, last one, took me a week to fill in. I had a bit of a heads up after helping a few others with theirs.
Its a severely punishing exercise to complete.