Mike has mobility issues. He’s not in a wheelchair, but he cannot walk far. He also cannot sit still for long periods. He is unable to get out of the house much and consequently suffers from depression and anxiety issues. He had an ESA assessment coming up, so one of our volunteers agreed to go with him.
The appointment was an early one. Despite this he still was forced to wait nearly an hour beyond his appointment time. When a complaint was made, it was explained that previous appointments had ‘obviously been difficult cases’ and ‘run on’. Mike’s disability means he cannot stand or sit in a chair for long periods, and he had to get up and down. The long wait actually meant that he was in danger of losing his seat, as the ‘customers’ for the next set of appointments were coming in.
The solitary toilet was out of order. It was out of order in December as well. Clearly the budget does not stretch to a decent plumber! On a more serious note, this meant that disabled claimants had to do the long walk back to the lobby to use the communal toilets for the building.
There was also a bit of dark comedy.
A claimant came in with her daughter and pre-school aged granddaughter. The granddaughter dutifully played with the box of rather sad looking toys in the corner. This contained a storybook that she presented to her mother to read. An over-crowded waiting room of claimants, support workers, and friends was treated to the story of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ having their homes taken away from them by the big bad wolf. How apt a description of the modern benefits system.
After the assessment, and as soon as we left the building, Mike lit up a cigarette. He’s clearly not the only one. There is now a large build-up of cigarette ends. How many of these are the last cigarettes of the condemned, or the ‘Thank God that’s over’ cigarettes of the relieved we leave our readers to guess.
(Maximus is the private company subcontracted to administer the DWP’s Work Capability Assessments that are used to decide whether someone qualifies for Employment and Support allowance or has to look for work.)