Sunday, 19 October 2014

Because You Aren't Worth It

I don’t recognise our society anymore. I don’t recognise a society that is accepting of the idea of bribing employers (yet again) to hire disabled people. I don’t recognise the attitudes that criticise opposition to this; as if the opponents were in favour of denying vital opportunities to those people.

Who decides the worth of people? What gives an unelected banker, who has been handed a glut of unearned privilege, the right to decide whether someone is worth even a sum of money as risible as the NMW?

Who has decided that money is the sum of a person’s worth?

If a disabled person can do the job then a) hire them and b) pay them at least the NMW. Anything else is exploitation. To then patronise a disabled employee by trying to argue he or she is only worth £2 beggars all belief.

Oh, but these are people that are by virtue of their disabilities, aren’t as productive!

Is that the measure of a man these days? Who decides a person’s rate of productivity? How is this measured? We are human beings with thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears, we aren’t fucking robots! By arguing that a person should somehow be paid less than the legal minimum you are reducing the entire worth of a person to a risible pittance. £2 an hour anywhere else would get you laughed out of town, even the Jobcentre couldn’t compel you (though I’m sure they’d try) to work for that amount precisely because it’s below the legal minimum; it’s an employer openly and obviously trying it on.

But if you’re different; if you have a psychology or a physiology that’s different, then it’s acceptable not only to offer such a demeaning sum but to criticise you if you don’t jump at the chance. Look, here’s a pair of shiny round coins for you, don’t you want to have them? Wouldn’t your life, all that encompasses you as a living breathing being, be entirely the richer for it? All you have to do is sweep the floor, lick some envelopes or press some buttons (because fuck me if I’m going to stoop to doing the dirty work my business requires to function when I can pay someone as little as possible to do it for me). Why would you refuse?

How utterly and completely degrading is that? But the propaganda is in full flow: it’s better to have these people doing skivvy work (because that’s all they are good for isn’t it!) than sitting at home ‘festering’. Again it’s the assumption that the only activity of any worth in society, of any worth to the life experience of a human, is in paid servitude to another. But even that isn’t taken seriously by those that propagate the notion otherwise the work available would be worthwhile and properly compensated. When the boss wants you to work for even the NMW, never mind £2 an hour, you know they don’t care about your well being!

But these poor folk can’t match the productivity of their ‘normal’ peers!

Who decides? Who says? If someone can do the job, why are you looking to pay them less for it than at least their colleagues? No one’s productivity will be exactly the same as another’s. If you think a disabled person can do the job then, by definition, you are agreeing they are worth at least the NMW for it. If you don’t think they can do the job (assuming you are being honest and not disablist) then don’t hire them – but don’t moan about people that can’t find work receiving benefits.

The only barrier to work for disabled people in 2014 is the attitude of employers. At the very least are there not grants and funds available to help deal with equipping the workplace to make it accessible, etc? Aren’t such schemes the mark of an evolved civilised society? Or is it too much hassle (even though making those adaptations is giving work to someone) for lazy employers – the kind that can’t be bothered to dot the I’s and cross the T’s and want to pay someone (as little as possible) to do that for them while wiping their arses.

As ever this attitude isn’t challenged: the Tories pander to big business and the boss class in society while condemning anyone else when they perceive similar demands are being made. It’s ok to subsidise the wage bill of employers, but not to pay people enough to live on when they can’t find work (keeping them desperate enough to accept the shrinking standard of pay and conditions on offer, of course).

So the attitude seems to be that disabled people will find it hard to get work – unless we offer it to them, but we aren’t prepared to do that unless we are allowed to pay them £2/hour and everyone else, including our rivals in business, make up the rest. If this isn’t the sort of attitude that the Tories abhor, when they perceive it (i.e. create straw men) in the unemployed, then I don’t know what is.

Work is not the be all and end all of human existence. If you want people to make a positive contribution in their lives then give them the means to do so. People that can’t work or can’t find work should be given a decent standard of living, no question asked. They should not be punished by a system frightened that, if they give ‘free money’ they will turn into fat skivers addicted to beer and TV; they should not be victimised by the prejudice of those that have the power to change things. Who knows, with the right support such people might be able to make their own way forward and become self sufficient.

But that’s not what capitalism wants: it wants a compliant, fearful, labour force, willing to believe they are the authors of their own misfortune. This pool is then ready and willing to fight each other for the scraps the masters throw from their banquet table of plenty, like starving dogs. They don’t want people with knowledge and power because then who would choose to work for £2/hour in the gulags of tax dodgers.

Finally, there are obviously limits on what some people can do. However that is true of anyone; people are different whether they are traditionally disabled or not. It has been suggested that Freud’s odious comments were aimed more at those with limited mental capacity: severe learning difficulties or high levels of autism, etc. Not, for example, blind people, or someone whose legs no longer function. I don’t think that makes it any less patronising because the bottom line is the same: if someone is doing a job pay them a decent wage for it. That is surely the best way to creating equality. Ok they might be sweeping the floor or collecting trolleys – and they may even enjoy it (which is entirely their right to do so) – but at least pay them properly, show them they are worth their weight as a human being, not a means of production.

What is our society worth if employers can avoid their responsibilities? Employers should be proud to pay someone a good wage, not look at that as an inconvenience. They should be proud their staff can then contribute economically and not be dependent on foodbanks. They should be proud to pay taxes so their staff can be educated to do the job and cared for if they fall ill.

Why are disabled people exempt from this? Even if their opportunities are in some way limited, that should not mean they aren’t at the very least paid properly. You cannot have it both ways: to both hire someone you don’t think is up to the job and then pay them a risible pittance. If they can do the job, able bodied or not, then pay them properly. That we are having to have this discussion is an utter disgrace. The Tories have long hated the NMW, they argue it inhibits profit. Sometimes that's a price worth paying.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The System Needs A Fundamental Change

This system needs a fundamental change and I don't think Labour will provide it since they are wedded to the same capitalist ethics as the Tories. Their silence and indeed capitulation since 2010 speaks volumes: it was they, for example that facilitated IDS' 'emergency' legislation re: workfare. Preserving his image was the height of this emergency. Labour sat there and voted in support of denying £130mn worth of money wrongly withdrawn from jobseekers incorrectly sanctioned - never mind the legitimacy of forced labour and penury.

That said Labour is the only game in town for 2015. The whole rotten system needs changing, but that's not on offer next year. The priority must be: ousting this vicious lying incompetent government - both the aristocratic murderers led by Cameron, and their supposedly liberal quislings. 

Vicious: they have ushered in cuts and 'reforms' the like of which we have never seen, all designed to erode the safety net and the meeting of social necessities. The bedroom tax was facilitated by a man later put into the Lords who has no experience of benefit, welfare or government, nor was he even elected to any position, let alone the House of Lords. Yet the BT doesn't even account for people who have no alternative place to move into.

Lying: IDS and McVey have made a career out of spin and outright deceit. IDS was interviewed by Andrew Neil in front of a graphic regarding child poverty that plainly said the opposite of what he claimed. Evidence means nothing to him, what he believes is what is. McVey is a grotesque 'yes' woman, a harridan whose ego thrives on the nastiness of her words who shrieks even louder while egged on by her masters. She so desperately wants their respect it's almost misogynistic.

Incompetent: IDS couldn't and cannot even make his own schemes become reality. The aforementioned Mandatory Work Activity scheme was implemented incorrectly, yet he thought nothing of wasting thousands on endless rounds of lawyers to prove his case in courtroom after courtroom. Anyone that challenges his assumed authority is immediately denounced and scorned. He will not listen and he will not learn. UC was 'on time and on budget' for 2013 - or so he promised. It still hasn't been signed off on while its directors (such as the odious Howard Shiplee) have made hundreds of thousands.

Meanwhile the DWP has turned into something straight out of Kafka. Targets for sanctions are an open secret and, when the spotlight shined on the evidence, the managers pretended it never happened and, ironically, wouldn't happen again. However there is report after report, anecdote after anecdote, from individuals and organisations all confirming the awfulness of the current regime. People are treated like scum, sneered at, judged, and then automatically found wanting. People are living in fear of the sanction that will take them below the breadline and into abject poverty, with no guarantee of any support at all. The Tories refuse to explain what help is offered to people that have been sanctioned - and people are subject to these penalties at a frightening rate.

Clearly there have been orders given, by the likes of IDS and the Tories, to facilitate this new brutality, yet what sense does any of it make? The Tories would like you to believe that sanctions are corrective, even character building; they are on record as saying that they have been, in some unbelievable cases, even welcomed. The way an abuse victim, I imagine, welcomes the fist of his abuser.

Sanctions are there to drive people out of society; out of sight out of mind. That no support is systemically offered to people in that position - who still somehow have to sign on if they have any hope of claiming afterward or appealing - is telling in the extreme. They do not want these people to have support; they want them to quietly fade into the night, to turn to dust like hollow souls lost to society.

They will hold these people responsible for their fate because welfare is weakness; money is not a mere energy of transaction, abundant in a society such as ours (while not governed by plutocrats and mandarins), it is the emblem of good character. It is the reward for following the Christianity of capitalism, the supposed work ethic of the entrepreneur. The hypocrisy of it all is breathtaking as these people lap up every benefit they can, arguing they have earned it. IDS deserves his million pound land subsidy, his expensive breakfasts, his underpants, etc; the mundane nature of such expense claims masking the venal nature of the man.

The poor are to know their place; to fight for scraps from the masters table. For the very chance to work for nothing - just to show, skinny and callow, their willingness to say 'how deep' when the rich man with the golden shovel says dig. If you're lucky you might even get the chance to earn a pittance.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Card Shark

The worst thing about this idea, apart from all of it, is that it controls people. By giving them one option you can manipulate people will have no choice but to shop where the government likes. If that isn’t the nanny state – or even communist Russia – I don’t know what is. But it’s ok when it comes to social security because the recipients are not people. So not only do we have the worst kind of state intervention, but we have the government categorising people as less than people.

Surely this is in breach of competition laws – probably those pesky EU laws the Tories conveniently want us emancipated from. Laws that tell us we can’t eat prawn cocktail crisps or dictate the curvature of our vegetables – or so the gutter press claims. Of course that’s nonsense. But telling people where they can shop is ok? Giving a massive boost to particular businesses is unfair surely – especially when the government claims to be a proponent of the free market.

The idea of ‘welfare cards’ cannot be workable, even though similar schemes exist in other western countries, like America and Australia. So much for the First World!

Locally it would require that public transport providers fundamentally adapt their onboard ticketing systems. I have yet to travel on a bus or any mode of public transport (including taxis and trains) that has the facility to accept payment in anything but cash. How then will people even get to the supermarkets they will be forced to patronise? Do the Tories plan to subsidise the technology? Only recently did First Bus abandon their card system (you brought a ticket in the form of a card – you still had to pay in cash) because it continually broke down. They have never had the means to allow card transactions to buy tickets and I’m not sure this would work. Requiring people to input pin numbers, wait for however long for the payment to go through (requiring a connection of some sort to the server), is ludicrous.

There is no way this can work and I would assume that a welfare card would have to function like a debit card; that is, requiring money be topped up somehow from the DWP – though how that works is another matter entirely. The alterative would be a card with a fixed amount that is then disposed of and a new one issued each time the benefit is due. I can’t fathom how much that would cost – at the very least there’d be a market for cards with value remaining. Somewhere the law of unintended consequences is going into overload.

What do they plan on allowing people to buy? Will it be only food and clothing? Where will clothing be allowed to be procured? Will it all be Tesco? What if Tesco don’t have what you need in your size while someone else does? Will it be Primark and their – let’s be honest – sweat shop supply chain?

None of this even touches the moral aspect; the infantilising of a whole section of society. All so another group of benefit recipients can scare the middle classes into voting for them on the issue of ‘controlling’ welfare spending.

What about the account system required? Will every single claimant required to use a card have to have an individual DWP bank account set up to store the money in order to access it and put it on the card/or make payments? How else can it work: if the money is preloaded (presumably like the prepaid iTunes cards and the like) what happens if the card is lost? You’ve just lost your week’s money!

What are the costs of processing card payments? I can’t use my debit card to buy things from the local convenience store because shops like that have a minimum spend that’s required to avoid bank charges. Big supermarkets can ignore these costs (or likely don’t even get charged given how much business goes through their tills). Is it reasonable to assume there would be a charge? Someone’s going to be making money out of this scheme, it won’t be the taxpayer! They won’t be printing cards and operating payments gratis.

What happens if the PIN number used is forgotten? If you’re an addict I would imagine forgetting things, however important, is probably not uncommon. Why should you be punished for it? If PIN’s aren’t used then where’s the security? How would you know if I’m using my card and not one I’ve stolen – and you don’t think people will get stolen, or robbed or burgled? Get real! I would think these cards make you more of a target and are themselves hardly secure: all your resources are on one card. If it’s lost or stolen you are screwed; can you expect that to be resolved quickly?

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Baguette Problem

I’m waiting to part cook a baguette. I’m feeling very faint. This is not new for me, I’ve had this particular issue for around 15 years – at least I can’t now remember not having it. Whenever I get hungry, which unfortunately can be very quickly after eating during the day (night time is ok – mostly), I need to eat. If I don’t the feeling of faint, sweatiness (like when you blush, as opposed to running a race for instance) and the accompanying sensory overload make it impossible to function. I’ve never pursued what happens if I deprive myself of a meal, and I don’t want to.

I have no idea what this issue is; it has been diagnosed – sort of – nominally as hypoglycaemia, but in truth I don’t think that’s accurate. For instance experts say that eating foods like porridge are good if you have this because it gives a slow stable release of blood sugar. Unfortunately about half an hour after a bowl of porridge I feel ill again. More so than if I eat something else (like another cereal, or toast).

The first GP I spoke to about this, years ago, just dismissed it saying that he has similar issues (I can’t imagine him being very effective in his job then; if he had to deal with an emergency while feeling dodgy it would be totally unacceptable). His solution: take a packet of biscuits and have a snack. In other words, snack on junk food when you feel a bit peckish. I can’t really imagine that being tolerable in, for example, a customer facing role.

More important, though, is the effect of the condition. The GP’s attitude is par for the course: it’s the usual dismissive crap I’ve since come to expect (one GP years later said that, because it hadn’t killed me, it wasn’t an issue). They just don’t get it – and being related to food/eating it becomes a joke. In this society hell bent on demonising people who don’t quickly and meekly respond “how high” when the bosses demand you jump, this sort of condition is just seen as a joke; an excuse to get out of a day’s graft. How can I convey the reality of how my metabolism operates – and it would seem this is just a part of my physical body, it’s just how I am? Do I have to collapse faint, sweaty and shaking? Would that even be believed? Again I’d rather not put that to test. perhaps that’s what’s required in this age of ATOS.

But the problems aren’t limited to the public perception of wellness that abounds thanks to the right wing media and Tories such as this clown who thinks, for example, aspergers is a ‘sob story’. That’s half the battle, truly, but as someone with health issues that do affect how I go about my day, who is there in the DWP that takes this seriously? Either one can work, completely in any job at any time at the drop of a hat with no health restrictions, or one is completely incapable of anything. There is no accepted middle ground. For instance were I to say that working from home would be a much better proposition, what help would I get? In fact the response would more likely be to assume that, if I can work from home, I can work…period! The machinery of the DWP lubricated by the ignorance of right wingers and capitalism informs the attitude that anyone who can do anything can do everything. See a person going to the shop to spend his benefit on XYZ (booze, fags, smack, dope, dvd’s, smartphone contracts, xbox games, unacceptable clothing – you know, all the proscribed items) and you’re looking at someone who can hold down a full time job without problems – because in their mind life is just that simple, discussion over.

In a society where full employment is not only impossible, but undesirable, what is the sense of pursuing the weaker members to work no matter the cost? The tragedy is that the machine of right wing capitalism has a ridiculously limited outlook and, where such people could contribute (I’m thinking in terms of culture and creativity, not the conventional workaday world), they could be helped to do so. But instead that limited outlook prevents people from contributing and achieving in favour of chasing a goal they cannot reach, nor could they sustain. All so rich people can profit further.

This is the problem right there: no matter how one tries to interact with the mechanisms that exist supposedly to help, be it your GP or the DWP, one is always, to put it bluntly, kicked in the fucking nuts. There is a quality of bias to the relationship between the individual and the representative of the machine that has all the power (!). it is an unbalanced relationship, hence using the word ‘power’. Instantly I, the individual, the patient with no real influence or power, am assumed to be in the wrong: I am a malingerer, a scrounger. I am someone to be viewed with suspicion; guilt precedes innocence. That is now a literal part of the apparatus of the Jobcentre. What chance do I stand when even my attempts to engage are further dismissed? Work from home? Beggars can’t be choosers! Get off your arse, it’s just a ‘sob story’. That’s the attitude, and the saddest part of all is that it just doesn’t have to be this way.

They associate wealth with morality and character: that wealth must be earned, not acquired. Ironic

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Speak Out!

There exists, in the public arena, a cabal of right wing thinkers often feted by the likes of the BBC to inject ‘robust’ discussion into various ‘debates’, usually on programmes such as Question Time. Lightweight so called political affairs where an audience of wannabe Tories, students, and self appointed community leaders and business representatives applaud contrived propaganda.

In other words, gossip merchants and shills who, among other things (such as denying anthropogenic climate change), propagate the insidious notion that poverty is impossible in Britain because it isn’t a third world country (at least nominally). The people aren’t brown babies with distended bellies surrounded by a cloud of flies and dust, they have smartphones and tattoos, and ergo they live in fucking paradise. They now point to places such as the Middle East and the reality of life under ISIS (or whatever they call themselves). Look at the poor people being beheaded and crucified, you scrounger, you think you have it tough!

This is deeply offensive and pernicious: poverty is poverty. It is disgusting wherever it is found – and wherever it is found it must be challenged fought and eradicated. A starving human being is no less in need of food whether he lives in Africa, Palestine, or Peckham.

Of course there are differences between our country – what is left of it under the Tories – and places like, for example, Gaza, Somalia, or Syria. We are a wealthy nation and we do cleave to greater values than believing in tribal ignorance and superstition. Or at least we should be. The wealth in Britain is bound up in land owned by the aristocracy having long since stolen it from the people as well as usurious systems of finance invented by clever rich people to protect other clever rich people. The values of democracy tolerance and freedom are continually eroded by a right wing press that abuses those freedoms to shock people into accepting policies invented by their backers and supporters.

But even so, we hold to these values. Consequently it is all the more important that, when poverty rears its ugly head in modern Britain, we speak out against it. When injustice manifests around the world we speak against it (those of us that do not profit from it, that is). This is because we have the privilege of knowing a better system and so we have a duty to speak out.

It is no different when it comes to the injustices created by this government of rich fools who are exploiting the poor and carving up society for personal gain. In fact I would say it is all the more important we do speak out because the cost of losing these precious rights is too great. If what little freedom still exists in this world is snuffed out, it will be gone forever, consumed by a seemingly rising tide of greed, institutionalised corruption and ambition, and superstition.

Whenever the likes of Peter Hitchens claims poverty doesn’t – indeed cannot – exist in Britain, he must be corrected sharply, directly, and accurately.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Return of the Work Psychologist (she's been on her hols!)

I spoke to the Work Psychologist today (WP). I needed to tell her the best time to contact the aspergers doctor (AD) that has not provided me with the diagnosis I feel I need. The WP is, in her own peculiar way, helpful, but there's always a sting in the tail. It was her that suggested contacting the AD, her idea. I agreed and signed the consent form she sent me to that end. Now she is saying that, while she is happy to do as suggested, it won't make any difference. This is what she does: on one hand she will suggest things or offer help, then later on decide not to bother. She did it at our initial meeting by saying she could undertake such a diagnosis herself, then decided she couldn't, and subsequently when I started on the Work Programme she offered to write a letter to support my case from a mental health perspective and then backed out saying, again, it wouldn't make any difference.

She remains broadly supportive, but the biggest problem I have is that she just doesn't understand the reality of the experience one faces dealing with the DWP as it currently is. The DWP is weaponised to be used against the poor, against anyone that claims benefits. This is a thing, but of course such political concerns are not her remit in much the same way that having to deal with the DWP is not part of the remit of the AD and the NHS at large (ie my GP). It makes it rather difficult to deal with the WP because she doesn't see the totality of my experience. Again she mentioned claiming PIP: i find this curious because the PIP system is in absolute meltdown and people that are on their last legs are finding their claims going awry. In light of that it seems somewhat almost irresponsible to suggest I claim it. She argues I should on the basis of paying for a 'community mentor' to help me...somehow. This is a suggestion that she made in her initial assessment of me two years ago. Nothing was done then (I don't even remember reading that part) and the DWP certainly didn't follow it up - for example by suggesting I claim DLA (as it was) or tell me what a community mentor actually can do. Unfortunately I didn't think to ask.

Any such claim will fail, I'm sure, without proper evidence to back it up, so we come back to the point of a diagnosis. Interestingly she agrees that getting one is important and proceeded to explain that the system of diagnosis is very rigid, at least in the UK. I explained what I thought about the testing done, that it seemed more oriented to a younger person, and that the tests were too specific and ineffective (I've already covered this in an earlier blog suffice to say that they aren't representative of real life experience). She agreed that this was a problem saying that it was clear that, as an older person, I had the life experience/intellect to 'see through the test' - but that argument is countered by saying that same experience/intellect means I can function and compensate for any difficulty caused by an autism spectrum issue. Whether that's reasonable or not I don't know, in fact not knowing is the only thing I can be certain of because I do not have access to anything that can provide certainty. That's the problem!

So I'm left with waiting for her to speak to the AD, whatever that will achieve. She offered words of support that are all very complimentary, and taken in the spirit intended. But they don't translate into actual concrete support and that's the issue. That's why i need a concrete diagnosis because the system needs proof and certainty that my word alone won't provide. Yet every attempt to find that certainty is met with the kind of questioning ("why do you need a diagnosis?" I'm asked) that I'm accused of myself as a means of not engaging with help that's offered. It is very frustrating. The only people left to ask for help seem to be the National Autistic Society, but they really aren't going to be able to sway the AD surely?

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Wellness Advisors

(presented as is, no time for editing today.)

Positive Step; I’ve mentioned them before, so have others, in responses to my posts. They are the go-to group referenced by my GP and now the asperger clinician, after so far failing to provide a diagnosis. They are presented as the entry level mental health service provider, but in truth they exist solely as a provider of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and nothing else. So I’m being told to go to them for what will be the third time. I know it’s pointless, but if I am not seen be doing what the doctors think then I will be criticised and labelled as lazy. This is how the game it seems has to be played.

However Positive Step has a history I want to understand. They are connected with ATOS. They call their advisors, whom you might otherwise like to think of as doctors or psychologists, Wellness Advisors. This reminds me of what ATOS calls their diagnostic staff: Healthcare Professionals. Both are, I suspect, unprotected terms, regardless of the background of any individual concerned.

On Tuesday morning I have an appointment with a Wellness Advisor. This process has taken me almost a month. Initially I was told, by my GP, I had to refer myself and did so. Unfortunately trying to get hold of Positive Step is not easy. They have an admin team that do not seem to understand the nature of the people they are dealing with and so instigate a ‘we’ll call you back at some point between now and the end of time’ approach, much like any mundane call centre. I suspect this is the influence of ATOS. When they did call back I was out (it was the evening and I had assumed their office closed). I rang the number back to find it was someone’s personal mobile phone number! They seem to contract out to private individuals the job of booking appointments even though that process includes a brief but personal assessment of your state of mind (presumably so that if you are actually suicidal they can call your GP and get themselves well out of it, as they aren’t specialists). I was told someone was going to call back shortly. They didn’t and I had to ring again (a freephone number at least) the next day when I did manage to get through to someone.

The assessment process however is just an entry point to another level of bizarre and pointless admin: you are then put back on ‘hold’ to wait to be given, again with a phone call, an appointment with the Wellness Advisor who will conduct another assessment! No it doesn’t make much sense. 

This process has taken about three weeks: I rang back twice after receiving two identical letters saying that ‘we called when you were out and so if you want to proceed you have to ring back and go back into the queue’. This really is no way to treat people. I was even told they would email me, as somehow they have my email address (I must have given it to them during a prior appointment – the two times I’ve seen them previously were never this awkward). That didn’t happen either until my third call managed to sort me out with the appointment I have on Tuesday.

Curiously this email, sent by their admin team, includes details of a group called ‘OHassist’. This is the group handling Positive Step’s admin, and they are connected to ATOS. This is what the bottom of the email says:

OH Assist TM is a trading name used by the Atos group. The following trading entity is using the trading name OH Assist: Atos IT Services UK Limited, registered in England and Wales with registered number 01245534 and Vat No. GB232327983; and is registered office at 4 Triton Square, Regents Place, London, NW1 3HG.

Now why does a (presumably) small group liked Positive Step even need a multinational IT firm like ATOS, perhaps through a subcontractor or affiliate, to handle phone calls? Why is this long winded process – just to get an appointment with someone who may or may not be a proper mental health professional – necessary?

I don’t know if Positive Step operates elsewhere, that isn’t the impression I get though I could be wrong. Their website lists they are a local group only and I can find no trace of any link to other iterations across the country. They are also supposed to work in partnership with the mental health trust that has been diagnosing me (hence telling me to go to Positive Step). I need to ask my Wellness Advisor (what a stupid term) what his/her experience and qualifications are. I know they peddle CBT and I know that’s all they will offer me so to be fair I am wasting my time, but I have to be seen to go through this nonsense. However I will be using it as an opportunity to ask some questions.

My suspicion is that they exist to offer a very simple one size fits all solution to mental health problems in the local populace with the notion that such people can be quickly helped and thus won’t need to be a ‘burden’. Unfortunately CBT is not suitable for everything or everyone. It might be great if you’re afraid of spiders or heights – something that can be easily debunked and desensitised – but if you have deeper or more serious issues you are not best served. I do not need to be marginalised because I ‘refuse’ CBT. I need to get access to a proper diagnosis and the right kind of support. Is the best that can be provided locally a group linked to the likes of ATOS?

You see the problem is that by regarding all mental health issues as something that can be fixed by CBT you are saying that such problems are ‘wrong thinking’ or ‘negative’ thinking in some way. Certainly the experiences they can lead to can indeed be negative, in that they are painful and limiting. But to regard this as bad is something I would regard as unhelpful; it’s a rather dismissive and simplistic approach just seeking to label a problem as bad and apply a process to ‘correct’ it. CBT doesn’t seem (and wasn’t my experience last time I interacted with it) to take into account the reasons why you have problems. These may well be more serious in nature. I don’t imagine that has changed, otherwise you would require more than a Wellness Advisor can provide.

Aspergers and neuro diversity is not ‘bad’; it is merely how someone’s mind functions. It is how they think. Why is that bad? Problematic certainly; our society demands people be able to function a certain way and, as I contend with my experience, these conditions make life a lot more difficult in many fundamental and unseen ways. I do not need to learn a process to ‘correct’ my thinking; I need a process that helps my issues be recognised and accepted so that I can become independent of a system that currently does not recognise and accept them and in fact (in the case of the DWP) seems to exploit such people.