Firstly and most utterly and utmostly important THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS COMPLETELY
AND UTTERLY FUCKING ARBITRARY!
This is a very important thing to know. If you know this you can then know what to do.
What do you do? Squeeze every last single drop out of your disability.
Important second point, it is well worth looking into the difference between impairment and disability. Not because the system uses it but because you write your initial form and any notes with the first one then the second one.
Heads up, the difference is more pronounced for physical disability than mental health but lets go with it.
Impairment is the literal bodily or mental lack. That is if you are blind the impairment is that you can’t see shit.
The disability is if you cross a road and there’s something you can’t see coming you are more likely to get hit. Thus disability is a social thing. Therefore guide dogs are for disability rather than impairment all though the two are connected. A blind dog is trained differently to a deaf dog but they are both dogs. I hope I haven’t lost you yet. Also some blind people are able to cope with a stick others prefer a dog, hence it is not soley to do with the impairment.
Also things like those bumpy bits at crossings under your feet and the beeps all help in different ways. So also we find people with wheelchairs needing ramps. So when someone doesn’t see the need to offer an aid to help someone with their disability at work they are not necessarily prejudiced against people having impairments, they may not think of them as lesser in any way, they are just blind to the differing needs of a world that is constructed by able-bodied people (the disabled having for the large part been excluded) for able-bodied people. (I’m sure you can see how this can be extended outside disability).
Now why bring this up. The benefits test is one that does indeed confuse the issues.
The benefits are to help with the disability but the test is about imparment.
As I said wring out any impairments first.
This is what you are being tested on. Use an ESA handbook to see what they are asking. They can be downloaded online.
But remember the money you get is to help you with your needs, your disabilities that stop you acting on the imaginary (and complete bollocks) level playing field that makes it harder to get a job.
So after writing down your impairments first (perhaps do this in rough first) think of every damn thing that makes life hard because of the impairment you have.
I know this is harder with mental health. What is an mental health impairment? It’s not fucking brain damage after all. This is when you go against all your principles and label yourself with the shit that you have probably been resisting your whole life. You can forget it afterwards, as Aristotle said 2500 years ago, it takes an educated man to entertain an idea rather than believe it. Educate thyself! The whole thing we battle against with the diagnostics is actually our friend here if we use Uncle Aristotle’s level of understanding.
At a conference I once brought up ‘crisis of being’ as a possible alternative diagnosis, when someone (a mental health recovery lecturer from Birmingham) said, ‘all very well and probably a valid description but you can’t stick it on an insurance or benefits form’. Here we have the reason for diagnosis, it’s so we know where the money goes. So you want your entitlement? Use it, it doesn’t mean you agree, just that you recognise the world you live in is not entirely of your making. Call it Machiavellian, remember your Gramsci, ’tis what he said innit.
So when you have thought of the things that your ‘impairment’ or for mental health, diagnosis or symptoms thereof (these guys are doctors, use their knowledge, look up your diagnosis and see what they label you with, if you have your notes you are entitled to see what symptoms they decided gave you your diagnosis and use them), make difficult. Walking down the road, going out, going to the supermarket, having a crap (does God watch you so you can’t shit and get constipation?). Every last bloody thing no matter how insignificant.
Then return to the questions, look at what is asked corresponding to each question and see how each disability fits.
Now remember I said the whole thing is COMPLETELY ARBITRARY. Well, yes, it is, my story will explain, but even arbitrariness has method in its madness.
Now I am writing this having had my third assessment despite having the same diagnosis and the same symptoms. I am classed as recovering and I am coming off my medication but read my other posts and you will realise I still get paranoid, I still hear voices, I still suffer psychotic delusions etc. The reasons I am coming off my medication are to do with getting in touch with emotions that my medication obscured, so that I can finally deal with this shit rather than remain in stasis, a non-being, just because fascist fuckers who read the Mail and Express are frightened of anything different and want everything locked away that conflicts with their ideals of masochistic normalised conformity (Fuck off you nasty Nazi cunts!). But on the first assessment I failed both the medical and the tribunal. Then reapplying as this stress, lo and behold pushed me over the edge and I got stressed and heard more voices, plus I had started to come off my medication and the new emotions i was experiencing (or rather the old ones locked away for 15 years) meant I started hallucinating more. But between a rock and a hard place, I couldn’t work medicated but coming off my medication meant i got worse again to get better and so couldn’t work (psychiatrists, psychologists, CPNs support wokers, GPs and other people who work with people with mental health problems every day who I have met seem to get this, Daily Mail and Daily Express readers who I meet don’t. Hey! Go figure!). Anyway so I fail the tribunal, but when I reapply I go straight to the support group, without a whisper of a medical assessment. Hey, so i went down hill a bit through stress and a graduated reduction in medication (nowhere near where i am now) but jesus! That’s a massive swing. Now 12 months later I’m reassessed, I fill out the form exactly the same way but this time I have a medical (with the same guy who failed me the first time) and go to work-related ESA this time. (Now I’m telling you, for years I have been trying to get myself to a stage where I can be more productive, I’ve done loads of voluntary work, I even tried to set up a business so that i could work from home with the help of the Prince’s Trust whilst suffering severe agrophobia due to my voices, but fuck me has each successive government actually made it harder!)
Now this is mainly because the system IS arbitrary, it relies on a semi-qualified person making a qualitative assessment of your individual needs using a universal system which is then codified and put into a computer to make a decision on quantitative values of qualitative data. I can not think of anything, Kafka, Orwell, or Monty Python have done that is quite in the order of that level of farcical arbitrariness than this load of crap of a bureaucratic idea. It is where governance truly becomes administrative. The iron cage of rationality as farce.
However, here we find how to do your best to get the best, by putting every damn bit down it means that first of all on the form, then in the medical, the human being who is codifying the qualitative data to quantify it by the machine, which can only be influenced by the human being codifying the data, the computer is otherwise neutral (where we influence the idea that a computer program should be used or at least the parameters used to program it is where politics comes in), is the only place we influence this behaviour. It is where a touch of humanity becomes an error in our favour, hopefully.
The more information you put before this poor person codifying the more they have to add the numbers up to influence the decision. This is where the intial form is so important. You ONLY get exempt from the medical IF you have written sufficient information down to DEFINITELY go straight to the support group. If you may be support but may not then you get a medical to determine, if you are definitely not support but might be work-related you get a medical to determine whether this is so. You do not go straight to work-related ESA without an medical. Of course if you are definitely not work-related on the intial form then you don’t even make the medical baby.
Again, the way to affect the results, and it is about affecting them, there is no rationality here that will give you exactly what you are entitled to. Forget it buddy, it ain’t happening. If you have an engineer’s or clerk’s view of the world that everything can happen just so as long as you just try to be ‘correct’ YOU WILL GET FUCKED OVER. Sorry mate, we have left Newton’s world, we are in the control society, semio-capitalism, post-fordism. Quantum theory has entered the discourse of finance, this is the criteria by which we are governed. Newton has left the fucking building, as has Churchill, the Empire and all those other fuckers.
We have auditing now!
So you need to get it all down every last drop. Imagine you are a catholic going to confession, except the priest is also a doctor, a psychiatrist, a lawyer and a member of the Stasi or Gestapo.
Welcome to market Stalinism!
The other option is to fuck it all, refuse benefits, become a psychotic guerilla, see the occasional section as a political prison sentence, and reports about mad axe murderers in the right wing press as anti-terrorist propoganda in the war against human being in all its true glory.
Otherwise you can take the temperance of some such as Perry Anderson and acknowledge that just because you operate within the system you don’t have to recognise it’s legitimacy as long as you recognise your potential to compromise yourself.
Personally although i veer between the two (I am a psychotic), i usually end up doing the second purely because I am NOT a puritan, and i accept that I will compromise myself again and
again and in fact there is a certain elective affinity between a tendency to perfectionism and the former path which has the same links to the protestant ethic as capitalism and might suggest the need for some people to reread or reassess Nietzsche.