Friday 15 June 2012

Guest post: Spoon overdrafts and the #WCA

This is a post by @MargoJMilne and originally appeared here on Tuesday 12th June.

It's difficult. I'd love to blog more. I'd love to do so many other things more too! Go out with friends, go shopping, go on holiday, keep on with my voluntary work, hold down a job...

over 100 spoons of assorted sizes and styles

But I'm a spoonie. I'm dreadfully, cripplingly fatigued because of long-term illness - in my case multiple sclerosis. And not only am I short on energy in the first place, but it takes me ages to recover after doing anything.

This weekend is an example. My beautiful, much loved cat Bing died on Friday. It was very, very stressful. Then on Sunday I drove to Oxford for lunch. Before I took ill, I wouldn't have thought twice about driving 60 miles each way for lunch. Now, it's an expedition of Amazonian proportions.

Today is Tuesday. I've not been out of my PJs since Sunday night. I really need to go into town to the bank, but my body's having none of it. It is, in fact, my spoon overdraft that's stopping me dealing with my financial one until I've got that blasted spoon level back up again.

sketch of a checklist attached to a clipboard with a yellow pencil resting on it.

And that's just one of the many problems with the Work Capability Assessment, which decides whether - and at what rate - people should get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It asks nothing at all about fatigue. It asks whether you can do a task once, but not whether you can do it repeatedly. It doesn't ask how your ability to work is affected by stress. ("Sorry, Mr. Employer, I can't come in this week. I'm tired cos my cat died.")

It's no wonder that so many people and organisations, including GPs, have denounced the WCA as inadequate. Staff members of ATOS, the company which carries out the assessments, have expressed concerns that not enough time is allowed for each appointment, for what are often complex cases with multiple comorbidities.

Karen Sherlock had multiple comorbidities - basically a lot of bad shit going on - but in her WCA she was put into the "work-related activity" group. That means they thought she'd be able to do some work, eventually.

Well, she couldn't. After a year's frantic, terrified gathering of evidence, Karen's appeal was successful, and she was placed in the support group.

And this week, two weeks after that decision, she died.

Wouldn't it be a wonderful memorial to Karen if this bluntest of blunt instruments were to be consigned to the history books forever? Let's continue to do all we can, for Karen and its other victims.


  1. The Cynic in me (the terrified Cynic) says they are doing this on purpose.. to reduce the people on the dole.. Reduction of health and safety, use of unemployed as free workers.. and so on... I am afraid.. very afraid..

  2. I agree with the above - They are doing this to get free workers for their eton pals - Its all about using the poor man till his demise so the rich getricher and richer still. Why else would they say that being free labour makes us healthy? I also have M.S. and I know that it is a bloody hard slog on the spoons just to get through each day.

    I'm sorry about the loss of yoru lovely cat - I lost my cat last Nov, lost 3lb in weeight in a few days (I was eating) and even now its hard - I miss her :-( Pets give you a feeling of having a friend who cares when you dont see many people. They are as much family as anybody <3