We're all spoonies here. Or disabled. Or carers. Or families and friends of someone who is. Or just nice people who want to help put an injustice right.
With that in mind, we all know how it feels to fill in a DLA (Disability Living Allowance) claim form or an ESA50 form. (For Employment and Support Allowance )
On the whole, I think we see them as necessary evils. Yes, they could be shorter, but mostly, the people I speak to would rather lay their life bare on an impersonal form than face to face to a complete stranger.
If you're a scrounger, I imagine they are a chance for creative juices to flow freely, but if you're ill or disabled and you have a painful or difficult life, then chances are that the time you spend filling in those forms are the only time your really face all of your limitations.
It can be soul destroying. People who spend their lives painting on a smile, trying to offer a cheery "fine" when loved one's ask how they are; people who push themselves beyond "normal" limits; push through unimaginable challenges every day must face that paper day of reckoning when actually, they must write in painstaking detail how "not fine" they really are.
We must admit to every last aid we use (even the one's we pretend we don't.) We must list every last episode of incontinence, every time we forgot where we were or had a massive seizure in the middle of a crowded shopping centre, peeing ourselves in public. We must admit times when we may have been a danger to ourselves or others. We must admit just how much support our loved ones give us and just how little we can do for ourselves.
Has to be done.
Hurts just the same.
Well, I'm sure you're also aware how tricky it is to get a look at your own medical notes. Or how careful doctors always are not to share your personal information with anyone. Or how many checks are in place to guarantee our data is secure.
Now, it comes to light (FOI request) that once your ESA50 form speeds on it's way to the day of reckoning, it will be opened first in a royal mail sorting office, bundled into relevant piles and only then sent on to the correct department.
Yep, Fred the postman, spotty young Fred, 19 (interests : arse jokes and medieval platform games) gets to open your form, the form you agonised over, blushed as you wrote, perhaps cried tears over, smudging the words.
Perhaps he is a responsible young man who simply opens your private, medical evidence, looks at the address and bundles up the papers.
Or perhaps, he is a little thoughtless. Perhaps he shouts to Pete over the way and they guffaw at your bowel habits or mock your spasticity. Either way, surely the point is that no-one should see these forms but the person who wrote them and the decision maker who will consider them?
There is nothing on the form to say this happens, no disclaimer warning you. If it is legal (which I find incredibly hard to believe) then surely it is not moral? Surely it breaks every code that medical professionals try to follow as they safeguard our intimate medical secrets?
I imagine ministers will tell us that it is "standard procedure" that no-one reads the details. Is that the point?
If this is the line they take, then perhaps they would consider writing a 1000 word account of the most embarrassing or traumatic event of their entire lives and allowing me to pass them round my local pub? No-one will read them, honest, we'll just pas them round and leave them in a pile at the end.
No? Thought not.