Whenever the benefits advisor warns me that the Work Capability Assessment process might take ages— e.g. getting the Jobcentre work coach to actually arrange one, then getting a form, then getting an assessment date, then finally getting a decision— I always respond that it’s fine with me, and I don’t mind, because it’s ‘extra time’. But then the benefits advisor always responds with surprise, and says something like “How are you doing for money, then? Are you managing?”. And I have to tell him that the main thing for me is to keep getting the benefits I am getting.
There’s this fundamental disconnect between the way he’s viewing it and the way I am. The Work Capability Assessment is simultaneously a decision on whether you’re ‘fit to work’ (and therefore have to engage with the whole ‘work search’ process, spending 40 hours a week looking for work!), AND a decision on awarding an extra disability benefit. It’s so bizarre to me, and so brutal.
On the one side you get additional help, on the other you have the rug pulled from underneath you. If you don’t engage in the ‘work search’ process you start getting sanctioned (having benefits payments reduced) and eventually you’d lose Universal Credit altogether. And since Universal Credit includes both the Job Seekers Allowance AND Housing Benefit, and my Housing Benefit pays for my rent to the council, then I’d lose everything. Those two payments total £1000 a month and my parents still have to help on top of that.
I view the Work Capability Assessment mostly as a threat, and the benefits advisor views it only as an opportunity. It’s weird that he doesn’t view it simultaneously in the way that I do, but rather projects only his viewpoint onto me. But he is autistic, and clearly does struggle with cognitive empathy. He will empathise if/once the decision has gone against me and sees the concrete result.
It’s both a threat and an opportunity, however the risk is much greater than the reward in my position. The risk is absolute— it’s game over. And considering my track record with getting any decisions to go my way ever, there’s no reason I’d not be wary of it.
So whilst I had a great session with the psychologist yesterday, which was all about being aware of my conditioned fight response (which includes OCD itself) and instead culture a ‘nurturing parent’ in my mind, the fact is I don’t feel safe to deactivate the fight response because of this new hurdle. Which is a shame and is pretty fucked. It’s incredibly tangible the importance of feeling ‘safe’ in order for somebody to engage in recovering from lifelong traumas and responses.