Monday, 9 March 2009

Benefits Agency

I am a bit p*****d off at the moment. I just had the benefit agency back on the phone about my appointment. I explained the girl on the phone that I am getting a doctors letter and was advised that this would be enough, however, the girl on the phone was very rude and told me that this wasn't good enough. I basically told her that there is nothing I can do but send in the doctors letter but when i came off the phone i emailed the benefits agency direct....

I am writing regarding my appointment on Tuesday. I can't remember the exact time of the appointment. I think it is around 3pm. I explained to the women who called me that I would be unable to attend the interview due to my agoraphobia. Although she did try to arrange ways of me getting there I explained that, for the moment, this is beyond me. I haven't left my town in over 5 years. The only way I imagine being able to make the appointment would be in the company of a nurse or if i was sedated. I do not see myself being in a calm enough state to get to your office, let alone sit through an interview, no matter how quickly it was conducted.

I am however worried now. I have received another call and the girl on the phone didn't seem very pleasant. I know that many people don't have a great understanding of agoraphobia but I can spend a lot of my days very anxious and the phone calls have made me very uncomfortable indeed. I explained that my doctor is writing me a letter which will be handed into your office asap. I would have liked the letter to be handed in BEFORE the above appointment but unfortunately my doctor cant have it done so quickly. The first person I spoke to told me that this would be fine and would mean my benefits would not be affected. The girl who called today made it sound like I will probably lose my benefits as this letter doesn't cover me.

I thought that things were improving for people with mental health problems. I am upset and feel under a great deal of pressure because of all this. I understand completely that there are people out there who DO make fraudulent claims and that the benefit agency need to investigate everybody, but what can I do if i physically cannot get to the job centre. Who can I contact about this? Obviously I have spoken to the job centre and someone from your team but would i be better to phone Cadogan Street direct?

I look forward to any advice. In the current climate I cannot afford to lose my benefits which only just get me by as it is. I can provide letters from my doctor, my occupational therapist and other members of the CPN group. I am very upset on behalf of all agoraphobics who will be put through this and myself and my doctor are curious as to why a home visit hasn't been arranged? My assessment and medical took place in my home the last time and in the words of the man who carried out my medical 'I was completely entitled' being as I CANNOT go out (as much as i would love to) and CANNOT use transport to get me out of my own town, and haven't done for 5 years. Doing so would cause me a great deal of distress and I think it is extremely unfair that I am being asked to do this by someone who obviously doesn't understand the condition very well.

I ask for you help in this matter and really hope there is a solution. Any advice is very welcome.
Now having just written that letter the next part of my post may seem bizarre. I am saying to these people that I can't go out, which is true to an extent, but you guy's know I am working very hard at changing this. Unfortunately just because I can go a daily walk, or a drive around the local streets, it does not mean that I can now go out and get a job... wow i wish i could!!!
This is just a little update on my weekend. On Saturday night I did manage to get to the pub again. I went there with my brother and his girlfriend and ended up being invited into the function suite where a leaving party was being held. It was good i guess, i was proud and happy that I had made myself go instead of sitting at home, which i am much more used to doing. Of course I am trying to make this less of a habit. A few things i have noticed now though... I knew I had went off alcohol, in the past i enjoyed a drink and liked the feeling of being 'merry' but as the years have passed I am now less inclined to drink. I said before that I thought this might be because I don't like to feel a loss of control, but it is also because it would tend to guarantee a panic attack the next day. So on Saturday night i decided to face this little problem and got myself a vodka. I drank it pretty quick and felt it go straight to my head. I ordered the second and this time was more reluctant to drink it. I left it on the bar for quite a while, while i went and chose some songs on the juke box etc, but then when i finally went back to it my little anxious head wasn't up for it anymore. This time my mind was saying 'what if someone has put something in your drink'?. Young women are always told to keep an eye on their drinks, and it is probably unlikely that anyone would do that in my local pub but stranger things have happened and so the drink went untouched and I moved on to cokes. Has anyone else ever thought this way lol
The only other things i noticed on the night was that my conversation skills are seriously lacking! I used to chat away with strangers, made them laugh, i thought i was pretty funny before ha, but now i seem to dry up a bit. I guess it is down to years of being a home alone at the weekends. I am not worried about it though, as the night went on i did get a bit better at it and i think the more im in this situation the easier i will find the chatting. My only complaint about this night was when I bumped into people who DO know about my agoraphobia and the would look at me and tilt their head to the side and say 'aww its nice to see you, how are you feeling, are you ok'. I know they are only being nice but i felt about 10 years old. Inside i felt very strong and like i totally belonged there but then these people made me feel like i was a little delicate child who needed her hand held. Anyway thats not a criticism of their behaviour, just thought i would explain how i felt in case any of you had felt it too.
Anyway back to the above letter and situation, its really bothered me because now that I am going out I feel like I need to justify myself. 'Yes sir i can go out but only a little bit, Yes madam i have been out driving but im really not that good at it'. In the past I told myself.. ok I have only walked to the bottom of the street but WOW well done me!! Pat on the back. Happy face, i'd be bussing etc, but now im having to flip it round and made it sound like a negative to these people (where i know i am doing bloody well) . I think i may be ranting now and probably making no sense lol. Arrgghh, i am just going to forget about it and keep up with my work. If i lose my money so be it, my health and beating my agoraphobia is much more important. I have Luke's first communion coming up in future and am looking to book a meal in a restaurant for Gerry and I. Both big tasks which i am looking to take on over the coming months.


Coffeecup said...

I'm in a fixed battle with the benefits agency over a medical appointment too. My doctor won't write a letter until the DWP contact him and the DWP won't contact him as they say it's not up to them. The system is a joke and I'm really happy that you have a sympathetic doctor and got your problem sorted. I wonder how many other people have been put through similar stress because of this? My next stop, my MP I suppose, what can you do?

Anonymous said...

i also have agoraphobia and i had the same problem with the jobcentre, they are so rude!

nicki said...

arii too have agoraphobia,panic attacks and social phobia yet the esa decision maker still decides that i should go in the work related activities group which means im expected to attend regular meetings at the jobcentre which i physically and mentally can not do.there is a lot of ignorance regarding this condition and the benefits people are among the worst,my partner has to do everything for just beginning an appeal....wish me luck

katie x said...

i 2 have agoraphobia, panic attacks , social phobia, i have had a few work related interviews over the phone...
but now the jobcenter have put me on ESA in the work related activity group!! ..
because i cant attend, or as they put it "refuses attend" they have knocked my benefits down to £87 a fortnight! , ... WTF!! i give in with them its like talkin 2 a fu*king brick wall!!. tried explaining 2them that "just because u cant see it doesnt mean there is nothing wrong"!

Ian said...

I attended a work related interview at the jobcentre, I am agoraphobic. My son took time off his work to get me there and back. I spent 10 very uncomfotable minutes with an advisor, I cannot remember one single thing she told me, I spent the whole time thinking, "Get me out of here, get me home." Four weeks later I was called back. I phoned and explained I could not attend, I was going though a bad time. The advisor told me that the fact I was on medication was not enough to maintain my benefit, I must attend some form of therapy. I feel as if I am being forced to do something I can not do on a regular basis. The bullying tactics used by this medically unqualified advisor are just making my condition worse. What's next? The streets?

Anonymous said...

Maybe not the streets but the workhouse. I read a comment from someone that this government were going to bring back workhouses and for some reason I'm starting to believe them! I too have agoraphobia plus Trigeminal neuralgia but have also been put in the work related group. Even if I could get to work, which I can't. I am often in excruciating pain which sometimes leaves me unable to eat drink or speak so I'd like to know who is going to employ me? People claiming benefits are now social outcasts (as if we weren't already) and are being persecuted. We will need somewhere to go so what better place than the workhouse. David Cameron and his cronies want a return to Dickensian times where the rich looked down on the poor ( Oliver Twist). Taxpayers are fooled into thinking all their tax goes on supporting us. Hmmm! I wonder if the royals would get the same treatment????