Fit for work?

His appointment is at 9am at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, two buses and a train away or half and hour in the car.

Richard can’t manage public transport on his own. He gets panicky. He’d asked his social worker and his alcohol team worker. Both were unavailable to take him which is where I stepped in. He gets a much-needed lift, I get another story for this blog.

So now, having met in a Morrison’s car park, we’re driving through the East Lancashire countryside in the rain, discussing his ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

“How does it affect you on a daily basis?” I ask.

“My concentration levels are really, really low,” he says. “I’m always thinking of 100 things at once and I can’t stop it. It’s very frustrating. I can’t organise myself.”

“So what are you thinking about now, as we’re talking?”

“I’m thinking about this wonderful scenery, about the detox and about the questions they are likely to ask me this morning.”

Because of his ADHD, his alcohol dependency and his depression and anxiety, Richard currently receives Employment Support Allowance, a benefit which means he’s unfit for work. However, he does volunteer at the UCAN on a Monday afternoon, helping IT freelancer, Charlotte get people online.

As part of the welfare reforms, he has a controversial ATOS interview this morning to assess whether he should be put on a different benefit.

In 300 yards turn left.

“I’ll give you another example,” he says. “I can completely zone out. I might start crossing a road and not realise it. It’s a miracle I haven’t been knocked over by now.”

Richard is 34 and he tells me he’s been drinking and using drugs since he was 14. “The last 10 years have been full-on addiction but I’ve only admitted it these past five years.”

He’s waiting to be admitted on a three-week hospital detox, although it’s not the first time he’s tried to stop.

“I’ve come off in the past, just to prove a point, but that’s not the same, is it? This one is for me. Because I want to change.”

As well as the detox, his psychiatrist has changed his ADHD medication and booked him on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions – talking therapy – for the next couple of years.

“You’ve got quite a journey ahead of you, haven’t you?”

After 300 yards turn right and then bear right.

“I’m scared though. Because alcohol is all I know. It’s going to be hard.”

Richard’s two-hour volunteering session at the UCAN is a lifeline at the moment, the highlight of his week. “I went to do an IT course there and was shocked when Charlotte asked me to volunteer. I can manage it for a couple of hours and, because it’s something I’m passionate about, I can focus on it for that short time. Now I’m buzzing.”

In 300 yards, you have reached your destination.

Continued in “Do you think you can work?”