Wednesday 22 August 2012

ESA50, Stage Two of the Journey to Hysteria.

Guest Blog by Hossylass

Having badly handled stage one through being thoroughly dismayed by the “telephone advice” available from JC and the DWP;

I started what felt like the most dangerous period of my life.

I first sat on a pony aged about 18 months, and after that life was pretty much a mine field. Attracted to the ridiculous, and having as much awareness of danger as a puppy, I have been drowned, run over (quite a bit), mugged, attacked, concussed and landed on my head at speed far too often for it to be a coincidence.
However it was pretty much all my own doing, which is exactly what my ESA 50 ended up as – a dangerous activity that could end in a disaster all of my own making.

This meant I had absolutely no-one to share my sense of ridiculous with. And there were moments. Dozens of them.

Starting from the top, I had the weird feeling that my National insurance number was not my own, so tried to fill in a different one.  I should have left it at that – I clearly can’t even write a series of letters and numbers correctly. My brain said one thing and my hand refused to do its bidding. Total refusal. Naughty hand. Naughty hand responded in the negative and like a sulky child refused to participate further. I asked the other hand, but got the impression that after 45 years of being the unacknowledged spare, it was fucked if it was going to help out now.   Suddenly I knew how left hand felt – I shouldn’t have asked after 45 years of treating it as a lesser being.

So onto the questions.  Can you mobilise 50 metres. Well no, not really. Not at all. I could get lucky, or I could dislocate 50 times in 50 metres, and it’s more likely to be the second.
(Damn you ex-dominant leg, why can’t you behave as well as ex-non-dominant leg? And Oy ex-non-dominant leg, stop getting your own back and following ex-dominants behavioural traits).

Then the next question stumped me by asking could I walk 200 metres. Eh? Do I have to answer this? Obviously not, as I had stated that I couldn’t reliably walk 50 metres… but this is Atos and the DWP, so dutifully I ticked no, resisting the temptation to say that no miracles had taken place in the miniscule time frame between completing the first bit and the second bit.

Who knows, maybe it happens for some people…

So onto question 2. This made me wonder what sort of workplace the writer of this masterpiece worked in. Can you transfer and can you sit/stand or alternate for an hour?   
At this point I had visions of an office of latter day jack-in-the-boxes doing some sort of musical chairs crossed with comedy seats that gave people electric shocks, launching them into the stratosphere when the music stopped, and whilst airborne someone else transferring sneakily onto their vacant chair.

Well there wasn’t an option of “after 5 minutes of sitting can you assume a simian position, knuckles below knee level and collapse onto the floor at the first attempted footfall”. 
Disappointing, but I have to remember that these questions are not aimed at any one person. Well not anyone that occupies my universe.

Memory fails me where we went next, but my personal favourite is “Can you lift one or more arms…” Can someone tell me how many arms we are assumed to have?
Now I know it’s not of this planet – I have really entered a twilight zone. I was tempted to send off a freedom of information request asking just how many people have more than two arms. 
Tell me it’s not just me, tell me that secretly everyone else has “more” arms.  Trust me, I am not being pedantic, this question freaked me out. The temptation to write “I cannot lift any of my arms” was quite overwhelming. For about two days.

It occurred to me that the question was aimed at upper limb amputees, who may have various "arms", and could lift a veritable boxful above their heads – I shall watch closely at the Paralympics to see if multiple arm raising is a recognised sporting discipline.

It then got worse. It then tried to ask me two conflicting questions in one. 
So can I lift 500mls of liquid; possibly but what’s the catch? Well it’s also a pint apparently, which it clearly bloody isn’t. A pint is over 11% heavier. It is, in liquid terms, probably the obese big brother of the 0.5 litre. 
Now considering how hysterical the DWP get if anyone makes a mistake, and remember folks that in future a mistake could cost you £50, I am annoyed. I suppose though I am now entitled to the same 11% margin of error… so I could say that I am a purple galosher all the time, when actually I could be perfectly normal 11% of the time and only a galosher 89% of the time.

And one quick question, can anyone hold a book and turn the pages using only one hand? Or are we talking at the pulpit here, with a King Jim bible lay flat out and begging for a sticky finger to sweep across its sensuous pages. Seeing as people read books in a variety of places, and very rarely are these places such that no support of the book is needed, is this entire question just a way of saying “’Ere, got any office skills? Button pushing and scribble and all that?”

Anyhow, moving swiftly on… The next question is about communicating and the following one about shitting yourself. As the DWP talk shit I am surprised they managed to separate these two criteria.

And again with the next question maybe a little self-examination is needed by the criteria writers. Ask the DWP to do a simple task, or even two, and then sit back and wait…

So take consolation when the next ESA50 drops through your door, that although its life or death, although it is the most important thing you will ever do as a cripple, although it intends to break your balls and make you weep, it is actually a badly written piece of shite, and anything you write at all on that form will only increase its credibility and its worth.

And good luck.

I don’t think that Atos or the DWP will gain much insight from my form, apart from the fact that I am a mardy arsed, foaming at the mouth cripple with a persecution complex, but maybe that and a note from my GP could just be enough to exclude me from games. Fingers crossed eh?