Every day that I’m on “the sick” is extremely stressful. It’s very rare that I don’t need to call up some government department related to the job centre and correct them. This involves playing phone tag with uncaring, bored people in phone centres.
I just got off the phone with Atos, the private healthcare company that assess the medical state of sick benefit claimants. They called me this morning for about two seconds, hanging up when I answered. Yesterday, I’d had a call from one of my flatmates in Newcastle, telling me that I’d got a letter from Atos. Of course, I’m not there – I had to move back in with my folks because I was too sick to look after myself back in November. This does make it hard to arrange the interview, but after being on hold for twenty-five minutes we managed it. They did refuse to give me their name though.
I’m lucky; I’m recovering from my illness. There are some people who are trapped, by ill health and poverty, in a constant battle with this bureaucracy. At every point of contact with the agencies set up to support me I’m suspected of fraud, and have to continually prove that I’m not somehow “cheating the system”. To be honest, I don’t think I have enough energy to cheat, as playing it straight is so much hard work – purely because of the lazy people behind the desks, phonelines, and Job Centres.
I doubt that this system will ever be fixed. It seems the ideas of mercy and hospitality are far removed from our society; the instinctive reaction to somebody who is on ‘the sick’ is that they are a scrounger. Personally, I can’t wait to be not sick, or at least not sick enough that I can stop dealing with the mean-spirited stupid people who run these systems. There’s no benefit to be had from them.