The government wants to pretend that disability and ill health don’t exist, but it doesn’t work.
How nice in this day and age to receive post. My frequent correspondent, the Department for Work and Pensions, recently dropped me a line to remind me what an economic burden my chronic illness is. This letter, an invitation to a little “work-focused interview” they were holding, contained the word “work” nine times, plus one “working” and one “employment”. References to health or disability: not one.
Said letter arrived the week after I had been summoned to a meeting at my local Jobcentre. I had been to these before. You hand over your bank statements and doctors’ notes to prove that you are not a Russian oligarch with Munchausen syndrome, and are thus entitled to your benefits. Photocopies are taken. They pat you on the head and send you away to await your fortnightly bank transfers. Relatively painless.
So imagine my surprise, if you will, when the first question was asked and it was “Do you have your CV ready?”
I admitted that in my fourteen months of chasing a diagnosis, followed by five more making my slow, underfunded ascent up the waiting list for treatment, keeping my CV up to date had not been my top priority. I explained that my sainted mother, who frequently has to do my grocery shopping for me, had driven me there and was primed to drive me home again because I wouldn’t have the energy for a bus ride. That I had defrosted a microwave meal for that evening as I knew I would be beyond cooking. That I hadn’t done anything the previous day, nor would I the next, to make sure that I could come to this interview. That “getting dressed” for me usually means putting on a different pair of pyjamas. That I go to bed for an hour every morning and every afternoon to make it through the day. That my various doctors didn’t consider me able to work.
“So, do you think that you could work, maybe, sixteen hours a week?”