• John is still ‘fit for work’ despite excruciating pain and is unable to sleep.

    John’s world was torn apart on a Monday morning three weeks ago. First came a text message that read: “We will ring you within 2-3 hours to discuss the outcome of your work capability assessment.” Then the phone went. A “decision maker” at the Department for Work and Pensions told John he’d been judged fit for work despite his extreme pain, despite all his doctors had said. One of the benefits he needed to live on – employment and support allowance – would stop immediately.

    John doesn’t want his full details made public. “A mauling by the rightwing press would be more than I could bear.” His life has been shaped by an attack he suffered one evening in London 30 years ago. It left him in hospital for three months – and with major injuries to his leg, back and shoulder. They’ve got worse over the years, causing him to give up work about 15 years ago. He recently had a knee replacement; doctors are now contemplating a tricky operation on his spine.

    He’s on Tramadol and other heavy-duty painkillers, yet even on the best of days he still has constant pins and needles. At other times, “it’s like someone is stamping on my spine in heavy hobnail boots and smashing nails into my feet and up my leg.” Even on sleeping pills, he hasn’t managed more than three hours a night for over 15 years.

    This spring the government decided to test John’s capability for work. John answers the questions with an almost painful trustingness. No exaggeration, no flinching from admitting that he sometimes wets himself. When it came to assessment day, he took along a local councillor, Denise Jones. At the testing centre run by Maximus – the outsourced provider of assessments – he faced the usual robotic questions about whether he could lift an empty box.

    Then came the physical examination. The table was so high John can’t believe he managed to climb on it; Jones says he did, just. Both say the effort cost him visible struggle and pain – and both recall that the “healthcare professional” said she didn’t want to examine him. But the report stripping John of his ESA says it was he who “declined examination”.

    I put these and several other detailed points to the DWP last week, but was advised on Monday that John’s was now a “historic claim”. Maximus would need to write to the DWP, then await the details to be posted back – a process that could take about a week. “A giant bureaucracy,” the Maximus spokesman said. If that’s how the head of communications for the company at the centre of this bureaucracy sees things, what hope for the likes of John?

    I received instead a “generic response”, which states in part: “We will look into the issues raised in this particular case. All of our healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses and physiotherapists – are fully qualified with a minimum of two years’ postgraduate experience and they receive ongoing training.”

    None of this helps John, but it’s not meant to. While awaiting the “reconsideration” of his claim, he’s been to the jobcentre and signed a declaration that he can work for 40 hours a week and commute 90 minutes each way. Both claims are a lie – the stupid, necessary lies John must now tell to get money. Perhaps he should have lied like that in the first place, rather than getting into debt just to keep going. This is for a man who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke and hasn’t been to the cinema in two years.

    To read Aditya’s full article on John and the struggles many people are facing during assessments, please click here to go to the full article on The Guardian.



    Hi I'm Aden, I work at DisabledGo as the Digital Marketing Manager and I manage the blog and all social media channels.

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