Wednesday 25 November 2015

The DWP at your GP

This article about a pilot scheme to place JobCentre advisers in GP surgeries is actually 2 months old, but somehow I hadn't read it until last week.

It is fucking terrifying.

Your GP surgery is supposed to be a place of safety.

I recently had some issues with panic attacks. Basically I spent an entire weekend in a state of absolute terror - I called The Samaritans at one point because I was just so panicked, alone, and afraid - and then on Monday morning when my doctors' surgery opened I phoned and wept at the receptionist. I got given an appointment for 3 hours later; when I wept at a doctor.

I was scared and upset and in absolutely no state for a JobCentre staffer to start harassing me with "have you ever thought about being less ill and getting a job?"

But it's not just about mental illness. When talking about alopecia am I going to have someone from the work program suggesting I buy a loom and start making and selling jumpers using the obscene amount of hair I shed? While having invasive gynaecological examinations, am I going to have to maintain eye contact with someone telling me that if I put my mind to it I could get a job as a stripper seeing as strangers have seen me naked from the waist-down anyway?

The recent academic research that attributed 590 suicides to the work capability assessment also found that the assessment process caused 279,000 additional cases of mental health problems, and required doctors to prescribe to assessment victims an additional 725,000 antidepressant items. Can you just imagine: You've been made so ill by the WCA process that you need to go and beg for antidepressants. And when you get to the doctor you find yourself face-to-face with someone saying "hey! We might have just given you an extra mental illness on top of whatever condition you already had. But how about we send you on a workfare placement? That'll perk you up. Or kill you. But either way, you won't be a useless scrounger any longer."

Here's a quote from that article justifying the scheme:

Dr Josephine Sauvage from the NHS Islington CCG explained that the employment drive aims to redress isolation and confidence issues, which are often associated with long-term health problems.

She said: ‘When we become ill we often stop doing those things that get us out and about and bring fulfilment to our lives. As a local GP I see and hear this every day and I’m very keen to do more to support my patients’ well-being.

‘Prescribing free and confidential employment coaching, delivered in a caring and familiar environment, could be really beneficial to a patient’s confidence and self-esteem, as well as their long-term recovery.”

Yes, being ill has meant I am no longer able to do things that get me out and about. Last Thursday I was supposed to go to some swanky party; but instead I was home alone - ill - and sitting around the flat my pyjamas. Someone from the JobCentre telling me to get a job every time I visit my GP isn't going to prevent me from being too ill to do stuff a hell of a lot of the time.

Yes, I'm extremely isolated; I wrote about that on my own blog just a few weeks ago. But DWP harassment every time I need a GP to diagnose a weird rash isn't going to make people want to spend any time with me.

But you know what's going to make my confidence and self-esteem even lower? Reminding me that I'm a useless benefit scrounger every time I enter the building to submit a repeat prescription request form. Don't you think I feel enough shame about my status in a society that's obsessed with one's occupation? Without just rubbing it in every time I turn up to a building that's supposed to be safe.

What's worrying is that a GP - an actual practising doctor - seems to be in denial about the fact that some of her patients are actually too ill to fucking work. Perhaps, if she's really concerned about the social and emotional well-being of people like me who are ill and excluded from society, she might like to promote social cohesion schemes that allow us to participate in the local community as and when we're able. Because bringing the JobCentre into the surgery and telling sick people to "take up thy bed, and walk... Into McDonald's for a minimum wage job you're far too ill to hold down," isn't going to help anyone.