Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses? No, but there is psychometric testing….

The revelation that the Department for Work and Pensions has introduced psychometric testing and is imposing sanctions on those who do not or cannot complete such tests, leaves me shuddering for anyone with a ‘low’ I.Q. or a learning difficulty.

The following article lays out very clearly what the difficulties might be for someone who is illiterate, innumerate or less than computer literate

Despite the fact that you find me here blogging almost daily and thus might reasonably assume me to be both literate and numerate, I shudder for myself as well as for those who are recognised as functionally illiterate or innumerate.

I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree (1:1) a Masters Degree – also a Distinction – from the University of Southampton.   Yet forms frequently reduce me to tears, algorithms are gibberish and numbers over one hundred are as meaningless to me as particle physics or as iambic pentameter to a physicist.

Working with shapes and abstract or mechanical problems which has always been a problem- educational psychologists tests throughout my schooling placed me in the 5th percentile i.e. with the ability of a five-year old child- now leave me in a state of exhaustion so acute I collapse by the end of any kind of psychometric test.

I have had brain damage since birth due to oxygen starvation am registered as having specific learning difficulties and from the age of six had a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN). Thus since my earliest schooldays my teachers were aware I had dyspraxia and dyscalculia (even before such names were in use).

Skills which others take for granted such as finding my way to and from familiar locations were hard-won late in my teens by daily practical application. Cooking and simple kitchen tasks (complicated by the physical limitations of cerebral palsy (C.P.) and later the fatigue of a benign brain tumour) were undertaken with the constant risk of falls, burns, scalds and the sheer frustration of dropping the finished dish on the floor after several hours labour when an able bodied person would have completed the task in under an hour.

Living with C.P and dyspraxia means jumping in the deep end, means risking road traffic, A&E visits and much more fatigue than anyone can imagine. Managing the matematical, logical and cognitive processing tasks is much much harder. Managing my own finances when I left home, I dealt with by never spending a penny I did not need to and being a overconscientious, almost neurotic saver and checker of all bills even though the columns of figues made little real sense and were forgotten as soon as seen.

Four years ago thanks to poor NHS care, I suffered a further brain injury which damaged my memory and attention span, made my grasp of numbers and executive skills even weaker as well as tragically turning a student of English Literature with a proofreading job who was about to start a Ph.D.,  into someone who for four years could barely write a shopping list and who had forgotten how to make a simple journey to the post box or even how to make a cup of tea.

After the second brain injury all the mathematical, numerical and spatial concepts I had grasped over so many years with such great difficulty, became again a source of utter bemusement, indeed were worsened by  poor recall. Numbers are now more meaningless than ever to me, since I cannot remember after a few seconds which two numbers I was adding to one another and if asked to add the price of a tin of baked beans to a running total on a shopping list, I invariably end up adding some vaguely related digit but probably not one that would be recognised by a Sainsbury’s cashier.

To add to my distress I have became dyslexic and am now also unable to remember what I once would have considered the basic rules of spelling, punctuation, grammar and proofreading.  The editing of my writing is now done more by luck than judgement- if a piece flows, it flows, but I cannot see WHY one paragraph works or another seems clumsy or why  the automatic spell-check has activated the dreaded red squiggle.  If this piece  ‘flows’ for you the reader, I am relieved but it is pure chance and residual skill rather than any journalistic talent that makes it so.

I should have had rehabilitation, perhaps even some recognition from the NHS for the damage that a ‘standard’ antidepressant had done yet despite the fact that I had no thought of suing  despite the fact that neupsychological testing PROVED that my aural memory score had deteriorated from 99% to merely ‘average’ -as had my vocabulary.  Yet my medical notes show no more than that I ‘feel’ the medication has made a difference to my memory and I am considered to be functioning just fine even though my husband is now my carer 24/7.  .

Illiteracy or innumeracy is neither or laziness or stupidity.  It can have any number of causes from birth brain damage to Alzheimers. If we were asking the over 60s to do this to claim their pension, there would be an outcry, but this scheme presupposes that the the stupid poor and those lazy good for nothing jobless are the only ones who will fail with he ultimate agenda of failure which means success for the DWP in cutting Jobseekers Allowance claims and increasing sanctions.

I heard someone discussing children with learning disabilities recently: “They will never amount to anything, I cannot understand why we closed the asylums”‘

I am utterly against institutionalising anyone except those who have committed an actual crime, yet if the streets, starvation and death are to be the fate of those who fail such tests, I am not sure either.

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