Ellen had a day off college today in order to enjoy an enforced ‘assessment with a healthcare professional’. The summons came through the post and was ordered by the Department of Work and Pensions who presumably wanted to assure themselves that Ellen is in fact disabled and not committing benefit fraud. Had the shadowy department read any of the documents and reports created by similar healthcare professionals about Ellen over the last 20 years, they could have saved both of us time and money.
The waiting room was sparsely furnished both of objects and people. We were in fact the only ones waiting, and wait we did, a 10-15 minutes estimate turned into 40 minutes with Ellen becoming increasingly twitchy and entertaining herself by drinking as many cups of water as possible from the water cooler. I decided to try and recoup something from the 2-hour round trip and filled out the expenses claim form for petrol. Did they pay the Inland Revenue rate of 45p per mile? Er no, a whopping 25p per mile is doled out which reduced my petrol claim a rather measerly £9.10.
Eventually a short, black-haired woman in her late thirties came to collect us. I walked to the hallway with Ellen following and the lady announced that the assessment room was on the first floor and did we need the lift? Clearly she had not read Ellen’s file. Not overly impressed with her powers of observation either, I replied ‘no, the stairs will be fine’ leaving the look of surprise on my face a fraction longer than was necessary.
The assessment room itself contained two chairs and and a hospital bed with a layer of disposable paper on it, good luck with that, I thought.
‘This will take no more than 20 minutes’ she explained. In fact it took 6.
She began; ‘So Ellen has ‘autism, learning difficulties and dyspraxia?’ She paused, ‘I don’t really know why you’re here.’
‘Neither do I’, I replied.
Why Ellen was there was even less obvious. After the first question ‘are you still going to college?’ was ignored by Ellen, I was asked to reply on her behalf.
‘Oh, I assumed you wanted to interview Ellen, hence her being told to come and having to have a day off college in order to get here?’
‘Oh well you can answer the questions, as you’re her appointee’.
Silence hung heavily in the room for a moment.
I then noticed that the woman had a copy of Ellen’s EHCP in front of her. She gathered herself and began to ask a few questions towards gauging Ellen’s ability to get up, get dressed, cook food and travel to college. All of which require supervision and all of which is detailed in her EHCP.
As usual, all the questions seemed to be geared around physical ability and totally irrelevant for someone with learning difficulties. ‘Can you load and start a washing machine?’ is a memorable question from one form. Of course, physically, Ellen could load and start a washing machine. But without prompting and supervision she would never see the need to wash anything, and even if she did, she’d have no clue about unloading it and drying it. I think the woman took this on board, but of course, nothing will change. She muttered that she could complete the rest of the form without us and so we left.
Ellen did not utter one word.
One positive has come out of it though, Ellen has discovered the delights of the Word Cookies ap!