Citizens Advice Scotland have welcomed the report by six leading charities which highlights the flaws in the Employment & Support Allowance (ESA).
The MS Society, Parkinsons UK, the National Aids Trust, Arthritis Care, the Forward-ME group and Crohn's and Colitis UK have published evidence today showing that sick people are being wrongly found ‘fit for work’ by the Assessment system of ESA.
CAS Chief Executive Lucy McTernan said today,
“This is yet further evidence of what we have been saying for years, ever since ESA was introduced. Thousands of sick and disabled people are being found ‘fit for work’ by a system which is deeply flawed. As a result they are losing their income and being forced to either enter into a lengthy appeals process or try and find jobs they are not physically capable of doing.
“The government’s own figures show that 40% of people who appeal their ‘fit for work’ decision are successful in having it overturned. In Scotland, where CAB advisers help the claimant appeal, the success rate is 70%. These are extraordinary figures, and show that the decisions being made are simply not standing up to scrutiny.
“The government will claim that the objective of ESA is to end welfare dependancy and help people to find work where they can. But nobody disagrees with that. The objective is not the problem. The problem is that the system is making wrong judgements, and forcing some of our most vulnerable people into unnecessary poverty and distress.
“ESA is simply not fit for purpose. The evidence is already overwhelming, and is building all the time. The government has agreed to make some changes, but nowhere near enough to address the extent of the problems. They need to halt the roll-out of ESA now, and fix these flaws so that it becomes a system that helps those who can work, but protects those who can’t. At the moment it is doing neither.”
For more information, interviews etc., please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010.
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
CAS has recently submitted a report to the House of Commons Work & Pensions committee, on the subject of ESA. It included the following points:
- Based upon the experiences of CAB clients, our concerns about the ESA ‘Work Capability Assessment’ include:
- It is often rushed, and can last just 20 minutes, leaving claimants with the impression that they have not been properly assessed
- The yes/no format of the assessment is too narrow, leaving little opportunity for the client to explain their condition
- The health care professionals often fail to listen or interact with the client, which can lead to mistakes and a failure to properly assess conditions
- The descriptors often do not cover a client’s condition, especially mental health conditions, and are not based on ‘real world’ capabilities.
- An independent review of ESA claimants published in December 2010 found that only 13% of those found fit for work in their Work Capability Assessment have been helped into sustained employment.
- DWP figures show that around 40% of ESA appeals are found in favour of the claimant. More than 11,000 assessments in the UK were overturned at appeal in Quarter 3 of 2010/11 (more than 120 each day). CAS figures show that in Scotland, where the claimant is helped by CAB expertise, the success rate is 70%.
- 207,000 people in Scotland claim Incapacity Benefit. The majority of these claimants will be reassessed for ESA in the next three years, involving over a thousand re-assessments each week in Scotland.
- The high number of ESA appeals has had a huge impact on the time and resources of citizens advice bureaux. Our welfare advisers estimate that up to 70% of their time is taken by ESA claims - mostly appeals – and this is time that cannot be used in helping other clients.