Assessment Made Me Suicidal
Former science teacher Emma Round, 33, who lives with her husband, in Ladywood, Birmingham, tells Claire Donnelly how constant assessment made her suicidal. As part our Wigan Pier 2017 project, she explains why the future seems bleak for anyone living with disability.
The assessment process is completely inhumane, it’s causing so much pain and trauma for people who are already struggling to cope.
You live in absolute fear of the next change, the next assessment.
I’ve got Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I spent every day in the run up to my last assessment thinking about killing myself to make the stress stop.
You are made to feel you are to blame for needing support. The next step will be assisted suicide – if a right to die is ever made legal here we will see disabled people using it as they have been made to feel they are such a burden.
My next assessment is coming up and I am dreading it. You live with the thought you could lose everything.
The assessors have my whole life, all of my support, in their hands and the thought of that going is terrifying.
I’ve had assessments that have said clearly that I can’t move without crying but when it goes to the DWP decision makers they’ve still awarded me zero points for mobility problems.
I was turned down for ESA and found fit to work then my DLA was turned down too – the decision maker preferred the government’s evidence over the evidence from my doctor’s.
I got a letter from my GP saying I could hardy walk but apparently that wasn’t strong enough – they said it could mean I could hardly walk four miles.
They’ll ask things like, ‘can you walk ten yards into your garden?’
Well, yes, sometimes, but so what? Once you’ve done that what are you meant to do? What can anybody do within that distance?
If this was really about getting people back to work than the government would give the Equality Act some teeth and sanction employers who aren’t complying with the law – not us.
Yes, I can get in to the front of a shop but I can’t get behind the counter or in to their toilets or upstairs to the stockroom.
When my claim was turned down I was left with nothing and had to go to appeal. Your money goes but your needs don’t.
I had to wait 18 months. For that whole time I literally lived in my room. I was on the second floor of a private rented house, with no ramps, so I was pretty much housebound.
I was extremely suicidal at the time. I thought about killing myself every day.
I’d lost my career in teaching, was ill but was made to feel I was a malingerer. Most people don’t open up about it but we all know people who have been through it. I’m certainly not unique. It doesn’t matter who you are, the assessments seemed designed to cause the maximum stress and distress.
To add to that, the assessment offices aren’t even wheelchair accessible.
There is a lift – you have to go pass the security guards to use it and even though I’m in a wheelchair they asked me if I could walk up the stairs.
They wouldn’t let me use it because they’re not insured.
One friend of mine was so traumatised she started self-harming, cutting herself to re-open old wounds on her arms, during her actual assessment.
What kind of a system enables that?
I used to be angry with the people doing the assessments, with ATOS, now I’m angry with the people who are engineering and enforcing the system, the government.
This is about their choices, their ideology, their ideas about who does and doesn’t deserve help and it’s immoral.
If we don’t keep telling people what’s happening, shouting about how we are being treated, and challenging the system, things will only get worse.