How I almost lost my boyfriend to the WCA
Posted Monday 30 July 2012
Lauren’s boyfriend Mark has been repeatedly failed by the benefit system and is featured in tonight’s BBC Panorama documentary on the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Mark struggles with written communication but here his girlfriend Lauren speaks about his experiences, and the impact it’s had on his mental health.
In October 2008 my boyfriend Mark just stopped. He stopped going to work, he stopped paying his bills, he stopped looking after himself, he just stopped everything. It wasn't until January 2009 that his mother and I were able to get him to see his GP, who was so concerned that she immediately referred him to the Intensive Home Treatment Team.
Armed with a diagnosis of severe depression and anxiety and a sick note he was able to apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which had been brought in four months earlier. Mark filled out the form, sent it off and was called for a medical in April 2009. A few weeks after that he received a letter telling him he'd been found “fit for work”. The effect was devastating and had his mother and I not been around to restrain him we would have lost him. We were able to talk him down and, with the help of a welfare rights organisation, started the appeal process. Five months later they represented him at his tribunal where he was awarded ESA.
He was reassessed in May 2010, had the medical part of the WCA in July 2010 and failed. We appealed again and at the tribunal in March 2011 he was awarded ESA.
His third assessment began in December 2011 with the form arriving the week before Christmas, which put a huge dampener on the entire holiday period. We handed in the form in the middle of January and haven't heard a peep from them since. It's been over six months and he still hasn't had a medical assessment. The uncertainty of this is making his depression and anxiety much worse and he's currently on the highest dose of amitriptyline that can be prescribed without being an in-patient in a psychiatric hospital.
ESA was supposed to be a disability benefit that would support disabled people and help them get back into work. In theory it should work but the way it has been implemented makes it, in Mark's own words, “The benefit that keeps me ill.” We both believe that had he been correctly assessed in the first place and not undergone all the uncertainty and stress of appealing he'd have recovered and returned to work many months ago. With each week that he has to wait for an assessment or a tribunal or the next ESA50 form his condition deteriorates. The system has failed him and is prolonging his suffering. No one deserves to go through this sort of torture especially not an extremely vulnerable mentally ill human being.
He got involved with tonight’s Panorama programme because he wanted to put a human face to the pain and suffering caused by this assessment process. He hopes it will help change public opinion of the disabled who are continually reassessed in this way, and pave the way for changes to make the assessment process more accurate and less painful.
If you would like more information about the WCA, or you are looking for support, visit our page on benefits and welfare reform.
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