An Utterly Miserable Phonecall

miserableIt would appear the dehumanising experience of moving from DLA to PIP begins with that very first phonecall.

I received a second reminder letter in the Dreaded Brown Envelope, urging me to call up to start the whole grinding, hideous, unnecessary process.

So, this afternoon after a truly awful day in work, marred by crippling fatigue (my new nickname – ‘GrumpyPants’) , I called to say, yes, I still have MS (surprise!), and yes, it would be really helpful if I could still be allowed by The State to live on very little money.

My call was taken by someone with a semi-robotic grasp of the English language and I frequently had to ask her to repeat stuff; usually the legally-binding agreements they read out to you, followed by a threatening, ‘Do You Agree?’.

I agreed I could be prosecuted, banged up and no doubt hung, drawn and quartered, should I provide false information. Judging by my interrogator, otherwise known as a Call Handler, this may deem preferable.

I had to repeat my National Insurance number five times. A test? Probably. Every so often she would throw in the same question, such as ‘repeat your telephone number’. A test? Probably. I told her she was confusing me.

She asked if I had one of a list of illnesses, including schizophrenia, dementia, etc. I replied no, I had multiple sclerosis. She took absolutely zero notice. Another list of illnesses. Again, I replied, MS. Nothing.

I interrupted her robot speech to ask how long I would have to fill in the forms. She sighed loudly and told me four weeks from when I got my form, which may be in two weeks, but which would be date-stamped with, well, a date. What date? No answer. Confused? Yep.

She asked if I would get help filling in the form. Er, yes? Of course. Who wouldn’t? I can barely write a shopping list, far less fill out an epic and somewhat tragic story of my life with MS.

She demanded to know who would help me. I replied that some very kind people within the MS Society. Names? No. Why is this relevant?

In the end, we came to some kind of an agreement. She, on behalf of the DWP, would continue to terrorise me until I was pulverised to dust and in return I would write out every single episode of my life in which MS gets in my way, shatters my confidence and generally makes me feel less than sub-human.

Begging bowl at the ready …

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8 thoughts on “An Utterly Miserable Phonecall

  1. Spudnik says:

    Oh wow, I feel that. Soul destroying. I spoke to a chap yesterday morning whose accent was so impenetrable it was impossible to understand him. I really do understand call centre processes (11 years working in one), and that this was a formulaic basic information gathering, but it’s hugely frustrating. They don’t want any real details, they don’t need them at this point. I did get a text from them yesterday afternoon so something seems to be working.
    (By the way I did tell him that as it’s MS it’s not going to get better, but I don’t think he either heard or cared. Call centres eh?)

    • stumbling in flats says:

      This kind of mirrors my exact experience!! I did work in a call centre when I was younger, but I remember having a laugh and some kind of camaraderie??
      And no, they don’t hear those two letters, MS. It’s been entirely dispiriting and pretty horrible.

  2. You are a great writer. You’ll make a fine case for yourself. How is your script going?

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Thank you so much!!
      My script is dead, lol. My original idea is a bit too ‘literary’. My tutor has said I should write something about what I’m going through right now; the absurd nature of it. Not a bad idea? If only I could format properly …

  3. Keith Rhodes says:

    Dear Barbara,

    At the risk that I might upset the DWP Gestapo by bringing a grin to your face , hopefully, and thereby disturb your total concentration on completion of DWP forms,let me tell you a true story from yesterday.

    Not for the first time ( far from it ), I took on more than my feeble legs can manage comfortably nowadays, even pushing a rollator.

    I was meeting a friend for lunch and could not find a parking space on the road outside the café ( sometimes even a blue badge falls short of my preferred help from Scotty beaming up other cars on the road when Scotty has an afternoon nap ).

    I found a parking space in the next road and an elderly Lady spotted me hobbling from car to café.

    Her opening words to me were – ” My Mother used to say – Health is Wealth “. My opening words to her were then ” No wonder I feel poor “.

    She then added that she was not married and had no children ( I often hear an almost complete life story from strangers – I must have one of those faces )

    And in that regard, I consider myself blessed.

    I am no longer married but I do have three great , I think healthy ( though my youngest daughter got malaria recently in Africa !), children and a loving partner who has coped with me for more than 10 years.

    If this does not muster a grin, perhaps consideration of the unanswered question of whether the envelope was brown before the DWP letter was inserted , might.

    Love to you all.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Keith, I love this, but of course, I cannot show any emotion whatsoever.
      I am no longer married either, but like you, am blessed with my son, The Teenager. Who continues to frustrate and annoy me, despite him being at Uni.
      You’ve made me smile …x

  4. Chinchin says:

    Seems we all have some common themes apart from the wonderful MS. How many marriages ended? Mine lasted 7 years after diagnoses. I am happier without him, but sometimes do feel very alone.
    Have a great weekend.

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