Thursday, 17 January 2013

#esaSOS: just when you think it's safe to be disabled again - - -.

Here we go again! Just as we thought things were beginning to settle down those of us who make up the disabled community in this country are having to prepare ourselves for another onslaught on our dignity, our credibility and our abilities. For purely ideological reasons the Coalition Government, and yes, Liberal Democrats, you are as culpable as the Conservatives for what is being done to claw back a few pounds a week from those of us who are unable to serve the capitalist machine for medical reasons, while you cut the tax rates of those with the most money in this country (including yourselves) and you do nothing about those who find a way around the latest tax regulations before the ink recording them has dried on the page.

The Atos inspectors, -(yes that is what they are, Assessors are given licence to apply reality to whatever it is they are assessing while inspectors simply ensure that a product or commodity - in this case those who the medical professions have deemed "disabled" - fit a predefined set of parameters)- have been given instructions to play what amounts to a guessing game with the quality of our lives.

They are now under instruction from the government to imagine whether or not folk like me can be fitted back into "the workplace" if we used some aid or adaptation we might never have heard of, or seen, and regardless of whether or not we, as INDIVIDUALS, are able to make use of that aid or adaptation. This is equivalent to putting a 14-year-old in a Grand Prix car on a public road because they might be a good driver at some unidentified point in the future. Many of us will be subjected to an equivalent level of danger following our INSPECTION. If it were not so serious it would be laughable.

Three years ago I asked my GP if there was somewhere I could go to learn how to “drive” a wheelchair as I thought the time to submit to the pain was coming near. He didn’t agree, he pointed out that permanent use of a wheelchair has implications for skeleton and muscles. We reviewed my pain management instead. So what happens if the Atos inspector decides I can work from a wheelchair?

And there is more - - -

Those of you who are familiar with my blog will know that I live with both a recognised physical disability and a diagnosed mental illness. I am not sure what the implications will be for me of the latest Tory/Lib Dem instruction to the inspectors that they MUST NOT take account of both the physical and the cognitive disabilities of the human being standing before them, but I am assuming it will mean, in my case, that I am inspected twice. If that is the case it will be incredibly annoying but as those responsible for both my physical and my psychiatric well-being continually reassure me that either one of these conditions, and the strong medication I take in order to manage each one of them, should mean I am never considered fit for employment again. I have to continuously remind myself of some of the true horror stories about the fate of disabled persons who have been inspected by Atos in order that I do not become complacent. For I, and only I, am very aware of what the effect will be on my mental health if I allow myself to assume that I will continue to be deemed unfit for employment and the opposite occurs.

One of the side-effects of my "Degenerative Disc Disease" is arthritis. Earlier this year I was asked by the charity "Arthritis Care" to provide a filmed account of the impact of that aspect of my disabilities on my lifestyle and on my well-being, (BY WHICH THEY MEANT MY MENTAL HEALTH). I'd never really thought about that before, it caused me to recall the time in my early twenties when I contracted glandular fever. Everybody warned me to be wary of the depression glandular fever causes and I would inwardly smile because, unbeknown to them, I was already a diagnosed chronic depressive and I could not imagine that anything could be worse. I was half right, the depression associated with the glandular fever was not "worse" than that I was already experiencing, BUT IT WAS DIFFERENT: AND IT WAS EQUALLY FRIGHTENING AND DEBILITATING. I was able to point out on the film that the depression which comes as part of the package of physical and cognitive pain associated with arthritis is similar. It is also the case that the depression which came with the "illness" of glandular fever, and that which is caused by the consistent pain and the disabling aspects of arthritis, was/is not relieved by the medication prescribed to alleviate my psychiatric depression.

As you can see, I know from experience that to deny the cognitive effects of both chronic illness, and chronic impairment, on the mental health of those who live with either of these things is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is the assumption that an inspector has the permission to ignore the impact of living with the affects my defective body and my defected mind have upon each other, in order to "fit" me into some template of what a worthwhile (worthwhile within the capitalist system that is) person is.

The "able-bodied" should take heed of what is happening here. If ever evidence were needed to prove that life in the 21st century is lived as nothing more than a cog in the machine, or that individuality is no longer valued and has no place in a society that places the creation of money above the creation of a caring one, this is it. You who move through life unencumbered by physical disability or psychiatric illness need to join our crusade. As someone who went to work one-day a physically healthy human being and returned and "invalid" I can assure you that you cannot afford to be complacent and perform the “them” and “me” cognitive disassociation this government is encouraging you to do because it prevents you from accepting and empathising with the vulnerability of the human condition. It could be you or one of your loved ones tomorrow, I wonder if you will then continue to condone the bullying, victimisation, and stigmatising that we "disableds" are living with right now. It will be too late then of course, the systems and the recognition we fight for will have gone. And if you happen to be an Atos Inspector I genuinely hope the day never comes that you or your loved ones have to face the future you are creating for me and my community.

Never forget, it's me today, it could be you tomorrow.