Today I had my second interview with an ESA adviser–for those who don’t know, it’s Employment and Support Allowance, and you can read more about this benefit on the government website at https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance/overview. There are two groups that claimants are put into, a work-related and a support-related, and surprisingly (or unsurprisingly considering this country’s treatment of disabled people these days!!!) I’m in the work-related group, so I’m always very nervous going along to the interviews as I’ve heard of people in the work-related group being forced onto various courses and placements.
However, I’m surprised and pleased that today went really well! The adviser wasn’t the one I saw last time, but she was great. She got the gist of my situation as she hadn’t met me before, and then I basically told her my plans, i.e. that I’m starting the admin volunteering in a few weeks and hoping to go to uni again next year. She was completely understanding of the fact that a voluntary position has so many more accommodations for me and the managers are much more understanding than an employer would be if I couldn’t make it in or can’t manage a particular task and so on. I told her that I can possibly use the admin experience later on to get a few hours a week in admin, which is much easier on my health than an actual retail job would be (again, volunteering in retail is tough for me, but much easier than a job in retail because of the compassion and accommodations they can make). But right now, I’m just seeing how it goes, and trying to keep up the charity shop once a week and the admin once a week.
My file just said lupus and “other conditions” so that wasn’t very informative! She was really cautious about asking me about my health details in case I wasn’t willing to go into the details, which was kind of nice actually, although I have no issue with it! I explained that most of the problem is the hypermobility particularly while using the manual wheelchair. I told her truthfully that I really want to work, as most people on benefits actually do, but right now using the manual doesn’t grant me independence, as I need someone to push it most of the time, although it does allow me to get out a lot more. I’m trying to acquire a motorized scooter, as I’ve mentioned before, so hopefully if/when I do, things will be much easier on me.
She was very sensitive to my needs and limitations. I mentioned mental health vaguely saying I wasn’t sure if it was on the file and she said to me that that’s something she really takes into account because if she pushes someone with mental illness too far and they suffer a relapse, then she would share something of the blame for that. This is pretty refreshing to hear from a Jobcentre employee to be perfectly honest! She’s happy to leave me to my plans for the moment, including getting further in my application for PIP, because as she says, there’s no point in them pushing me into mandatory things right now that I don’t like or won’t manage when I already have plans in place for myself, things I like and knowing my own limitations.
She did say that unless I have a dramatic change in my health, I will be in the work group for at least two years before they’ll consider re-assignment into the support group. I’ve been on ESA for about half a year now, I guess, so that’ll be another year and a half probably. It’s kind of ridiculous, but as I’m not having problems in the work group yet, I’m happy to leave things as they are. I don’t know if there’s a lot of difference in the policies and services here in Scotland and other parts of the UK, but a lot of the horror stories are coming from England, although we’re not perfect here either. (I’ve had problems with DLA and my sister’s having a lot of trouble with being forced into workfare when she has a two-year-old to look after.) But I’m really happy with my situation with ESA so far, and I realize how blessed I am to be able to say that. Now for the hurdle that is PIP, eek! (Considering they haven’t replied to my letter I sent three weeks ago, it’s not a good omen!)