Thursday, September 11, 2008

Disability Does My Head In

I'm on a mailing list for disabled people working in the creative industries and there's a discussion there about how useful the social model of disability is. If you're not familiar with the idea, it shifts the focus of responsibility for disability away from the body of the person but onto the shortcomings of society. In a world without stairs, a wheelchair user is no less able to get around, it contests. It's not the person's legs but the stairs that disable them.

It does seem to work for a lot of impairments, but I'm finding it hard to see how societal changes could fix me. A world without doors might get a bit cold. A world without shopping doesn't bear thinking about. It's hard when the disability you have causes you pain, I guess. I worry that arguments about identity politics disappear up their own bottoms faster than a mouse in the Hadron Collider.

Anyway. I think I mentioned a week or two ago that I've asked Access to Work to see if there's anything they can offer to help me out with so I can do the permitted work part of being on incapacity benefit. I'm allowed to do up to 16 hours of therapeutic employment and earn up to £88.50. Of course, that means that you're expected to be earning only the minimum wage, or work fewer hours if your skills are worth more. Still, if I'm to avoid disappearing into a vortex of meaningless sex and rampant drug abuse, I need to keep myself occupied, which, to me, means working.

Fair enough! Then the form comes through, asking for:

* Signed AtW1 form (enclosed).
* Details of the duties to be undertaken in your job.
* Last year's tax return.
* Confirmation from Jobcentreplus stating type of Permitted Work.
* Confirmation from GP of disability.

Well, the form was fine, if the English in it garbled to the point of being nearly incomprehensible. Details of my duties just made me laugh: "Drawing and selling pictures of sad animals, helping people make pompoms and lecturing at galleries." Last year's tax return, oddly enough, I sent off when it was due.

I asked the benefits delivery office for confirmation that permitted work is, um, permitted, and they sent me a claim form on which I am meant to detail the work I'm doing. I assume this is proof enough that I'm allowed? As for the letter from the GP, I got a lovely call from the GP, checking I wasn't going to do anything that might slow down my healing time and then he told me that I could pick up the letter on Friday and that I'd have to pay £20.

Ugh. That's a third of my weekly income. I really hope I can convince them that perhaps it's better not to charge me, then I might be able to work and then afford to pay for frivolous charges like this. I've cancelled my subscription for Forbidden Planet comics and my Warcraft account so I can pay for it. Surely this is all a bit silly, no?

1 comment:

Pogonophile said...

The fee is largely at your GP's discretion (they tend to receive lots of requests for form-filling and letters of support); depending how you get on with your GP, I'd try explaining that it's a third of your weekly income and asking nicely if they'll waive it.