from Falmouth

Trying to find a way to respond to something that I find abhorrent.

As society becomes more obsessed with quantitative data as a way of analysing human behaviour and ability, and as part of huge cuts to benefits under the current UK government, the criteria for disabled adults claiming [what was previously known as] Incapacity Benefit has changed. Applications for receiving benefits, which were previously decided by one’s GP, are now processed by way of questionnaire which is subcontracted to a private organisation, Atos Healthcare, with an aim to reduce by 40% the number of disabled adults claiming benefits.

The form is impersonal and invasive, with headings such as ‘Controlling your bowels and bladder and using a collecting device’ and questions like ‘Can you learn how to do a simple task such as setting an alarm clock’ used to determine a human beings capacity to work.

My dad is the director of a fully accessible theatre company for adults with learning disabilities and has spent much of his career working with people with disabilities, which is partly the context in which I started working in and making theatre.

I emailed him the new form; he responded, referring to various friends and colleagues with variying levels of disability –

        With --, I can see no way that she'll keep the benefit. Which will probably stress her out. Which will make her ill.

        With --, --, --, the only way they'll keep the benefit is to degrade themselves and represent themselves as 'needy' -             when they spend their whole lives fighting for acceptance and equal recognition.

        And for the --, -- & --'s of this world they have to say that they can't do the things that they strive so hard to do. It is             such a negative dis-incentive.

It is interesting (though sinister) also to note the similarities between this form and the Nazi Aktion T4 form used during the Nazi regime across the third Reich as part of their disability euthanasia/eugenics programme. Whilst of course, a ‘wrong’ answer in Nazi Germany would have far more serious consequences, those in the situation of filling out the ‘Limited Capacity for Work Questionnaire’ will also have to carefully consider their choice of answer with the ‘wrong answer’ having the ability to severely change their quality of life.

Proposed project
Inspired by the Situationist/Lettrist international concept of Détournement, and following on from my previous work editing and re-distributing documents (Space/Void) I would like to re-make the ‘Limited Capacity for Work Questionnaire’ as a document that is infinitely more human than the current one. There are, at this point two possible routes for this work:

1) to re-make the document into something more sympathetic and human
2) to make a mockery of the original document and re-create it in a way that highlights its flaws and ridiculous nature.

Whilst option 1) was my initial reaction to ‘what has to be done’ about this, I am now inclined more towards the second option, of creating a satirical mockery of the form, due to the fact that I don’t believe there is a ‘good way’ to determine someone’s health by way of questionnaire.

I would like the re-worked form to be available both online and in paper form.

I will create a website that mimicked the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) site and upload the form onto here as a download where the current form is situated. (think: Yes Men)
I will use the main text area on the website for my framing statement and have links to research.

a copy of both the original and the modified version of the form
an A4 booklet in DWP colours/design with framing statement & research

Limited Capacity for Work Questionnaire – Department for Work and Pensions. PDF questionnaire, 21 pages
 A Guide to Employment and Support Allowance – Department for Work and Pensions.
Website Screengrab – Department for Work and Pensions. PNG file
T4 Scene from ‘The First to Go’: a play by Nabil Shaban about the Nazi eugenics programme

Incapacity Benefits – the reassessment process:
Void/Space Leaflet – Rachael Clerke & Dartington Hall Trust