+ Taking the fear out of ESA
March 7th, 2013
Disabled people are currently being migrated from Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This is causing immense anxiety and distress and this should not be the case. ESA needs reform to take this fear away and we will all know when ESA becomes fit for purpose because disabled people will be happy to be allocated to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and the appeals will melt away.
The source of most of the anxiety is currently located in the fear of being allocated to the (WRAG). Unfortunately the supportive environment which was envisaged for the WRAG that would have provided a safe place for disabled people to consider how they might return to work has not materialised. Instead the WRAG is a coercive environment where disabled people live under the threat of sanctions while they are in the WRAG and means testing and perhaps losing ESA after a year. This is a daunting prospect for them given that currently almost no disabled people are moving from the work program in to work.
If the WRAG could be returned to a safe, supportive group where disabled people were not in fear of sanctions and means testing – then they could relax and regain control of their own lives and find better solutions to getting work or meaningful activity.
Making the WRAG safe would also have the added effect of taking the fear out of the WRAG and encouraging people in the Support Group to think about taking up activity. At the moment fear of being moved to the WRAG inhibits this for many people.
This back to work program should not be running on fear. It is completely counter productive.
+ Liam Byrne offers to make ESA fit for purpose
February 18th, 2013
Pat’s Petition went to Westminster to see Liam Byrne.
Liam agreed that the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) isn’t working. He agreed that the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA is not the helpful, safe, supportive place it was meant to be.
Liam told us that he is about to run a six month ‘conversation’ with disabled people about making ESA fit for purpose. He said that at the end of the six months he hopes to put together a set of proposals about how to change ESA so that it works for everyone.
So this is the time to look carefully at ESA and tell Liam how we want it changed.
The first knee jerk response will be to continue to complain about the assessment process because that is where people first hit ESA.
But this assessment is only the gateway to the real problem of the WRAG. If you are allocated to the WRAG and spend a year there then when you look back at the assessment it may look like a walk/ride in the park.
The campaign that will actually do the most to improve people’s lives is a campaign to make the WRAG a supportive place instead of a living hell.
If you are allocated to the WRAG you will have to take part in the work programme. Disabled people are terrified of having to do this and being required to do things that they feel they may not be able to do. Your advisor will be working for a private company and will be paid by results so you have a bounty on your head as far as he is concerned. If you refuse or fail to attend they will sanction you and stop your benefits. Only 1.5% of people going through the WRAG are currently ending up with jobs so it is a lot of misery for absolutely nothing.
So please join the campaign to remove the threats and sanctions and make the WRAG a constructive, supportive place to be.
The second reason that disabled people fear the WRAG is that after a year the government means test you. If your partner earns more than £7500 a year of if you have more than £16,000 in savings – then your ESA benefit stops. 40% of disabled people will fail this means test and then their ESA will be stopped. This is the real saving that the government are chasing. Why don’t they come clean and announce that the universal benefit that was IB has now been turned in to a means tested benefit instead of hiding this fact behind a year of misery in the WRAG.
Liam Byrne told Pat’s Petition that he wants to make ESA fit for purpose. So please join with us in telling Liam that the threats and sanctions and means testing should be taken off the WRAG.
This would reassure people going through the ATOS assessment that the WRAG is a safe place to be and the fear of the WRAG would stop. The absurd level of appeals would stop. Disabled people could think about their work options and difficulties constructively in a supportive environment without the fear of the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. It would also make people in the Support Group feel safe and they could relax and try some activity without fearing reallocation to the WRAG
Liam Byrne said last week – “Help for disabled people needed careful change yet Iain Duncan Smith has behaved like a bull in a china shop and now we see the price for the taxpayers and thousands of vulnerable people.”
Please join with us in telling Liam how to put this right.br>
+ What are you testing for – Mr Duncan-Smith?
January 19th, 2013
ESA – What are you testing for – Mr Duncan-Smith?
The government haven’t defined what ‘fit for work’ means. They can’t because there is no simple definition.
So how do they expect to test for it with a tick box test.
What the government is really testing for is the potential in some conditions to possibly do some work some times.
This is not the same as fit to work and disabled people in the WRAG should not be coerced with sanctions and time limits as if they are fit to work.
It was wonderful to see all the support from MPs this week at the WCA debate arranged by Michael Meacher MP – but very sad to think that it has taken all this misery to awaken this interest when it was so predictable and could have been avoided.
But CarerWatch think that the major flaw in ESA was overlooked – again. People keep talking about ‘improving the tests’ and ‘getting the tests right’. They talk as if being ‘fit for work’ is a known concept which can be tested for. But it isn’t a defined concept in the modern world and so it can’t be tested for. And that makes WCA a nonsense.
You can’t devise a test for something that you don’t have a clear definition for. And being ‘fit for work’ is not a clearly defined concept. In fact it isn’t a concept at all in 2012.
In the old days we had a very clear idea that fit people could work and ill and disabled people couldn’t. But the world has changed and the social model of disability has come in and we now have par Olympians and Stephen Hawkins and this is all wonderful. But it destroys the concept of ‘fit for work’.
How do you define fit for work? You can do it in many ways.
Does being fit for work mean that working will help a person – improve their health and not cause them harm? Or does being fit for work mean that the disabled person can work as actively and competitively as a fit person. Or do they mean both? What are they testing for?
If we lived in a society that provided the right help, support, skills, job, location, enlightened employer prepared to bear extra costs – some disabled people could work. There are a multitude of factors that are barriers to work for disabled people and they all need to be overcome. The work place will need adaptation, support may be necessary both to get to work and at the workplace. This all takes effort and money. Are they defining people as fit for work with or without all these adaptations being made?
For some disabled people it would not be a wise choice to work. Keeping as well as you can is the priority for most disabled people and stress does not help with this. Medical advice is very often to avoid stress and work brings its own stresses. Whether the extra stress will prove beneficial or deleterious to the health of the disabled person is an enormously complex equation – hard enough to balance and evaluate for the people concerned and completely beyond a tick box test. Are they defining people as fit for work if their health will benefit from work and not if it will probably deteriorate?
But it isn’t just the effect on the disabled person that needs to be tested. The labour market also needs to be tested. We have spent decades insisting on improving the competitive nature of the labour market. Making it lean and mean. Why should the employer choose an employee who will come with such obvious complications. The answer is he won’t. We live in this economic environment and in this environment almost no disabled people will be able to get work in straight competition with fit people.
The brutal truth is that most disabled people are not going to be able to get a job especially in the current economic climate. This is being demonstrated by the work program that is placing 1.5% of disabled people in to work. So very few of them are fit for work.
Disabled people worked at Remploy – but they weren’t competitive and it cost money and the government decided that the benefits of disabled people being employed were not worth paying for. They want disabled people to go out in to the general labour market and compete with fit people without any sort of subsidy. So are they defining disabled people as fit for work if they will be able to get and keep a job in competition with fit people without any subsidy?
The government hasn’t told us what it means by fit to work. The government have decided to ignore the difficulties of defining fit for work and gone in to complete denial. They continue to ask ATOS to find most disabled people fit for work any way.
They have decided that it isn’t their problem that no one has even attempted to define what it means to be fit for work. They have pushed the problem of having to work but not being fit for work on to the disabled people to deal with and that is what is causing the pain. The government have opted for the simple solution of pressurising disabled people in the WRAG until the pips squeak and then timing them out and this is the most brutal method of ignoring the problems of not being fit for work and driving them off benefits. The results of the work program demonstrate that these people are not fit for work in any real sense but what a cruel way to prove the obvious.
If ‘fit for work’ cannot be defined then devising any test for ‘fit to work’ is almost impossible. And it should not be the focus of ESA. ESA should concentrate on running a supportive back to work service which is under the control of disabled people. No one else has walked in their shoes and no one else can mandate what they can and can’t face/do/manage.
No time limits.
No means test.
Why have we allowed IB to change in to a means tested benefit? Why have we decided stress and coercion are beneficial and therapeutic methods?
We need to stop testing and threatening disabled people and concentrate on supporting them back to work in a kind, non threatening way and allowing them to decide if they want to be par Olympians or go back to work or perhaps have a small mini job plus benefits or perhaps do community activity or perhaps concentrate on keeping well and living as a full a life as they can without working.
Just use the WCA to determine that someone has a genuine disability of a certain severity. And then offer them a supportive back to work program without threats.
And leave disabled people to make their own decisions and keep control of their own lives.
+ PATS DEBATE – the WRAG – a ticket to nowhere
December 9th, 2012
ESA WRAG is a ticket to nowhere.
CarerWatch hope that Employment Support Allowance (ESA) will be put fully under the microscope for the first time in Pat’s Debate.
In particular that speakers will look at the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and tell the real truth about it.
The government should admit that the WRAG is not about finding work. The WRAG is simply about moving sick and disabled people from an unconditional benefit to a means tested benefit to save money.
Four fifths of sick and disabled people will be allocated to the WRAG on migration from IB. It’s becoming clear that the WRAG is an out of work benefit like JSA. It wasn’t protected from the inflation cap in the Autumn Statement. You are expected to find work.
It treats people as effectively fit and time limits them to a year before means testing. The feature that terrifies most disabled people is the coercion in the work program with forced work placements and sanctions for non compliance. It is unfair to force these decisions on disabled people if you haven’t walked in their shoes.
The cover story is that these people are on their way to work when in fact only 1.5% of sick and disabled people are finding work through the work program in the WRAG.
The WRAG is a confidence trick for moving to means testing disability support. Can speakers in this debate be the first to be honest about this.
The heart ache over the WCA tests is really located in what the future holds when you are allocated to the WRAG.
ESA WRAG is a ticket to nowhere.
Already people are saying that after testing, failing, appealing, succeeding, retesting, failing, sanctions, work program when the means test is looming and they know they will not get any more support – they give up and drop out. Don’t let the people who give up and walk away count as people who disappeared and probably got jobs. They didn’t. They just gave up.
What others say
DWP explain ESAbr>
+ The WRAG is a JSA group
November 21st, 2012
Commenting on Professor Harrington’s latest report the Minister for Employment, Mark Hoban, said:
“The WCA is the right process for determining who is able to work and who needs support. It is in everyone’s interest to make sure the system is as fair and as accurate as possible. ”
Once again the Minister is completely missing the point. The government has decided that four fifths of people who used to receive Incapacity Benefit are now fit for work. This has been decided not by tests but as a matter of policy. The tests are a fig leaf to legitimise this decision and present them with the news. The terms ‘fair’ and ‘accurate’ do not apply.
People who are able to work go on to JSA. People who are sick or have a disability are meant to go on to the Employment and Support Allowance but they don’t except for a minority who go in to the small residual ESA Support Group. Where do the others go? In to the ESA Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).
This is a trick. The WRAG is described as an ESA group but is in all but name a JSA group. There they will be harried by forced activity and sanctions and then timed out just like a JSA group. Effectively they are being required to work.
It would be more honest if the government stopped hiding behind a testing system and just announced that in future four fifths of sick and disabled people are now going to be treated as fit people.
+ New Spartacus Report
November 12th, 2012
The Spartacus Report – People’s Review of WCA - is published today. Spartacus have highlighted many individual cases and it’s appalling to see all these people suffering through the tests for the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
But even if people get through this system and are awarded ESA – it is not the end of their problems because ESA is not a benefit which supports disabled people.
Most people who are awarded ESA are put in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) where they have 12 months of proscribed activities, including trial work placements, under threat of sanctions. This is in all but name Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). Although it is presented as a group for disabled people the message is that these people are fit enough to be on their way back to work.
After 12 months, they will have no further ESA benefits and if they live with family members their families will need to support them. Are we really giving up the idea of state support for disability and returning to the idea that families support disabled people?br>
+ ESA is a Confidence Trick
January 13th, 2012
ESA is flawed. There are two groups and they are not fit for purpose. Neither of the groups actually fits disabled people. Most disabled people fall squarely between the two groups. Professor Harrington is doomed like Sisyphus to forever attempt an impossible task. Nothing he can do to the descriptors can change the flaw in the design of the groups.
Here’s a thumbnail of a person with disability. They have hope. They would like to work. Realistically they know this probably isn’t going to be easy or perhaps even possible.
The government have set a trap for people like this and so far it is working like a dream. Sheffield Hallam statisticians say that under the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) 600,000 genuinely disabled people will fall in to a black hole and lose their benefits. Disabled people – amongst the poorest and most vulnerable in the country – will have their money taken to pay for the deficit created by others.
The trap is laid with thumbnails. Disability comes in so many forms and degrees that people are forced to resort to quick thumbnail sketches in debates. So the trick is to start with one thumbnail and then deftly slip to another without any one noticing the switch. That is called a confidence trick.
The main ESA group is the work related activity group (WRAG) and it is a trick. The thumbnail for the WRAG is a person not able to work but able to manage some back to work activity. But once you are in the WRAG just watch that thumbnail slip. You are now subjected to compulsory interviews and work activity under threat of sanctions and loss of benefit. And then the thumbnail slips again and a time limit comes in. The thumb nail is now a worker who is definitely on their way to work and the clock has started ticking until your benefit will stop. How did the thumbnail slip from a person who is unable to work to a person who will work. No medical miracle has occurred. You still have a permanent or deteriorating condition. It’s a trick.
While the trick is working this well it can be extended to DLA/PIP/UC – all future disability benefits.
Of course the favourite thumbnail is the fit, feckless scrounger pretending to have a bad back while refereeing football matches – boo hiss – the audience wakes up and remembers why they don’t care about disability. The Minister then slips this thumbnail to Incapacity Benefit claimants who he says have been claiming for years. Long term illnesses are like that – they go on for years – that’s why they are called long term. Let’s have a real thumbnail of a person with a long term degenerative condition.
Time to show compassion. The next thumbnail is the poor person so ill – ‘they will never work again’. This was originally set under ESA at 10% but they have had to increase it because of the absurdity of the level of successful appeals. This is the Support Group where people are not expected to work. This sounds fine but for many people it is actually not a good place to be. Safe but no hope. No young person should be there. But given the alternative of the WRAG people will continue to try and get in to the Support Groups because safety will win out over hope.
ESA is flawed. The two groups are not fit for purpose. Neither of the groups actually fits disabled people. Professor Harrington is doomed like Sisyphus to forever attempt an impossible task. Nothing he can do to the descriptors can change the flaw in the design of the groups.
Here’s a real thumbnail of a person with disability. They have hope. They would like to work. Realistically they know this probably isn’t going to be easy or perhaps even possible.
Please stick to the real thumbnail and design a group for real disabled people.br>
+ Harrington Mark II – CAN’T WORK or WILL WORK
November 25th, 2011
So the second Harrington Report is published – and the government accept it in full. What can we say?
Below is the executive summary.
It is all over in the first sentence
1. The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) was designed to assess an individual’s eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It aims to distinguish between those people who could work; those people who could work at some point with the right support; and those people who cannot work and, therefore, need State support.
Those three groups are JSA – ESA WRAG – ESA Support Group
The problem lies in the last two ESA groups. People with long term disability do not fall in to these two groups. No allocation can fix this.
Young people with learning disability are sadly being allocated to the Support Group which is safe but a life sentence of doing nothing.
On the other hand while allocation to the WRAG is supposed to mean those people who could work at some point with the right support - people tell us that, as soon as they get allocated to the WRAG, they feel threatened with sanctions and time limits – and it is assumed they WILL work.
CAN’T WORK or WILL WORK – these two options aren’t fair. People with long term disability don’t fall neatly in to these two groups. However much Harrington polishes up the test – the groups aren’t fit for purpose.
1. The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) was designed to assess an individual’s eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It aims to distinguish between those people who could work; those people who could work at some point with the right support; and those people who cannot work and, therefore, need State support.
2. The first Independent Review, published in November 2010, found that the WCA was the right concept for achieving this aim but that it could be impersonal and mechanistic and that there was a lack of transparency in the process with poor communication between the various parties. This led to poor decision making and a high rate of appeals, many of which were successful.
3. A series of recommendations designed to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the WCA were proposed and were immediately accepted by the Government.
Implementation of year one recommendations
4. I am pleased to say that all the year one recommendations have been, or are being, implemented. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) moved swiftly to make the recommendations Departmental policy and DWP Operations (From October 2011 the formal agency status of Jobcentre Plus ceased to exist. For clarity and consistency throughout this document the work of Jobcentre Plus before October 2011 and anything after then are both referred to as DWP Operations. ) and Atos Healthcare have enacted these policy changes.
5. The WCA has, in my view, noticeably changed for the better. However there is still further to go. Some of the improvements from my first Review have not reached all parts of DWP Operations.
6. To those who feel nothing has happened, I say: be patient. It is happening. The process is not yet perfect, but it is improving and will continue to do so over the course of the five Independent Reviews.
Key findings and themes from this Review
7. Whilst the year one Review, and associated recommendations, considered the WCA process and how that could be improved, the year two Review has focussed on a number of more specific issues which the first Review did not have time to consider in detail and which will support the recommendations from year one.
8. In this Review I propose a number of more detailed recommendations to improve further the process of the WCA and the criteria used to determine eligibility for ESA.
9. This Review sets out a series of recommendations which complement – and build on – the recommendations from the year one Review. They aim to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the assessment by:
Better communications and sharing of information between all parts of the system This will mean that everyone involved knows their roles and responsibilities and that the purpose of the WCA and the reasons for decisions are better understood. This is particularly the case between Decision Makers and Personal Advisers within DWP Operations so that reasons for reaching a decision and what that decision actually means are clear. Although there is no clear evidence that ‘employability’ should feature in the WCA, Decision Makers and the Work Programme providers should liaise more closely so that the latter are better able to help people back into work. Whilst the First-tier Tribunal President considers it to be outside the remit of the Review, better communication between the First-tier Tribunal and Decision Makers so that reasons for upheld appeals are clear would also considerably add to the fairness and effectiveness of WCA process.
Increasing and improving the transparency of the assessment DWP and Atos need to engage with representative groups and their clinical advisers to ensure that Decision Maker and healthcare professional guidance used during the WCA process is up-to-date and clinically sound; and the regular publication of Atos data will ensure consistency and that standards are not allowed to slip.
Ensuring quality decisions are made Regular audit of Decision Maker’s performance is needed to ensure they are making consistent, robust and evidence-based decisions and that – as newly empowered Decision Makers – they are accountable for their decisions.
Monitoring the impact of recommendations from the Independent Reviews This will help ensure, and provide evidence, that the changes are having the desired impact. This could be achieved by collecting indices for change on the rate and amount of progress made; and carrying out research into what happens to people who are placed in each group over time.
Further decisions need to be made on the proposals for new mental, intellectual and cognitive descriptors once further research has compared the proposed descriptors with the current ones. I hope that it will be possible to consider similar research for the recently submitted proposals for refining the fluctuating conditions descriptors, or for them to join this process.
Costs and benefits
10. I recognise that, if adopted, these recommendations will have a cost implication attached to them.
11. However, as with the year one recommendations, seen in the wider context the proposed changes are likely to be cost saving or cost neutral in the medium- to long-term by ensuring that decisions are right first time and by ensuring that all parties understand why a particular decision has been reached and its implications.
+ welfare reform hits the rocks
November 8th, 2011
Welfare reforms could force 600,000 off incapacity benefit
Government measures ‘will impoverish vast numbers and cause untold distress’, according to university studybr>
+ Evidence to Harrington Review of WCA 2nd year
September 15th, 2011
This is the CarerWatch evidence to the second Professor Harrington review.
The point we are trying to make is that while CarerWatch welcome the challenges to the detail of WCA being made by the disability charities and others – we think these challenges miss the point.
The Work Related Activity group of ESA is coercive. The work program is run on sanctions and time limits. This should be challenged.
Otherwise while the WRAG remains coercive – you are saying – it’s OK to bully some disabled people as long as you get the tests right and bully the right ones.
CarerWatch say NO.
Why won’t the government - why won’t the disability charities – discuss the time limits and the sanctions in the WRAG. Because they would have to look us in the eye and say – we think sticks and bullying are good for people with long term severe illness or disability. This is what ESA says but so far they can’t bring themselves to actually say it to us. So it is a wall of silence about the sanctions and time limits.
Join the CarerWatch discussion group here
Dear Professor Harrington
CarerWatch is a group of unpaid family carers. We also have very many
members with severe long term illness or disability.
We are an e-mail based group which allows people who are often isolated in
their homes to communicate freely. All our policy is decided by the
members. We e-mail an alert when ever we are coming to a position or view
and all members are invited to come and join the discussion. We decide
policy by consensus during the discussion.
Our members are very concerned about ESA. We have never experienced this
degree of anxiety and concern before. So we are very grateful for the
opportunity to submit this evidence.
We realise that your review is limited to WCA and in our opinion the
problems with ESA are deeper than that. We don’t think the ESA groups meet
the needs of people with severe long term conditions. Because the regime
in the WRAG contains sanctions and time limits copied from the JSA regime
for fit people we think it is too coercive for people with severe
disability. This means far more people need to be allocated to the Support
We don’t think the groups are defined clearly. Are you fit for the WRAG
because you can manage some activity or is it because you are mentally fit
to stand this level of pressure.
Rethink say in a current campaign -
Rethink Mental Illness is concerned that current benefit assessments fail
to understand the reality of what it is really like to live with a mental
illness. Further, 80% of people with a mental illness surveyed said the
test has made their mental health worse.
After being assessed for Employment and Support Allowance, Ryan* told us
“As a direct result of the way I have been treated… I considered taking
my own life on and off for a period of months. My GP even wrote a letter
to them to spell out the severity of my illness and how the situation was
putting me in danger.”
We have an opportunity to change the welfare system so that people like
Ryan are treated fairly.
Rethink Campaigns Team
We agree with Rethink. The WRAG frightens people and is not a safe place
for them to try and find work.
Our reservations are spelled out in more detail in a recent letter which
we sent to six charities which copied below.
We think that sanctions and time limits should be removed from the WRAG so
that it is made a safe place to help people find work. Unless this happens
the WCA descriptors must take account of the vulnerability of sick and
disabled people to undue pressure and place most of them in the Support
+ People do not fit in to the ESA groups
September 10th, 2011
Letter from CarerWatch and The Broken of Britain
MS Society, ForwardME, Parkinsons UK, Arthritis Care, National Aids Trust and Crohns and Colitis UK
Congratulations on your excellent report – ESA WCA Review – Making it Work for Fluctuating Conditions – 2011
In particular we would like to endorse your statement –
Capability for work is not a clear cut issue. Although some people with long term conditions or disabilities can be completely fit for work or completely incapable of work many do not fit neatly in to either category. Those whose conditions fluctuate may move between the two extremes but more often will fall somewhere in the middle.
All severe long term conditions fluctuate to some degree. This statement applies to most people with severe long term conditions. Most people with disability will never be fully fit for work – neither are they completely unfit for work.
This is the first time to our knowledge that this fundamental reality behind ESA has been so clearly identified.
We believe that this could provide a break through in solving the problems marring ESA. If it can be addressed then ESA can be transformed in to the supportive benefit it was designed to be.
Once it is accepted that most people with long term conditions do fall squarely in the middle and will never be fully fit for work the solution is to design a group which meets their needs. Unfortunately the WRAG in its current form with time limits, sanctions and mandatory work activity is not a safe place for people who will never be fully fit for work.
It is necessary to design a group which is a safe and supportive environment for people who will never be fully fit for work where they can attempt to work if they want to without fear of losing benefits or being timed out.
What is the point of the time limit when people know they will not be better within a set period of time. What is the point of sanctions when failure to comply may always be due to the condition. How can you get people to agree to a program of activity when they will never be confident that they can fulfil the demands of a work program. These coercive conditions frighten people and stress makes all conditions worse. They also frighten people in the Support Group in to abstaining from activity in case they are reallocated to the WRAG.
These threats in the WRAG have been designed by fit people and show no understanding of what it is like to try to find and keep work with a long term disability. They have been taken en bloc from the program for fit people and they do not translate to the reality of disability.
It is a tragedy that what started as a constructive and supportive program has become such a threat because of the unnecessary time limits and sanctions.
This one simple change – removing the time limits and sanctions from the WRAG – would make it a suitable group for most people with disability and the problems of ESA would melt away.
+ One Simple Change – Employment Support Allowance
August 28th, 2011
One and a half million Incapacity Benefit claimants are currenly being migrated to a new benefit – Employment and Support Allowance. The design of this new benefit is not fit for purpose and is causing great distress.
Atos are tasked to divide people with disability in to two overlapping and confused ESA groups – one to face a regime of time limits, sanctions and mandatory work activity. The other group to be written off and left alone. The first group is too harsh and the second is too dismissive.
People with serious long term disability do not fall in to these two categories. All people, no matter how severe their disability, should be offered help back to work if they want it and no long term disabled person should be harassed and threatened in this way. All deserve respect and a safe and secure regime where they can try to find work and ESA doesn’t offer this.
ESA is not fit for purpose. The two groups are meaningless and however many times Professor Harrington reviews the infamous WCA test it will never be able to divide people in to groups that are unclear and over lapping. CarerWatch have never criticised Atos for having problems in trying to carry out this impossible task.
CarerWatch understand that the British welfare system has been changed to be in line with the more limited US welfare system. A new regime of time limits, sanctions, threats and mandatory activity has been introduced across the entire system.
It is not appropriate to extend this harsh regime to people with serious long-term illness or disability. And this is the source of the fear of ESA. Fit people are imposing mandatory activity and sanctions on people with illness or disability. Fit people think it will be good for disabled people. This forced activity looks very different when you see it from the other end of the telescope. When you have no confidence in your level of health.
The new style time limits and sanctions apply to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). These conditions engender stress and may make people more ill. We want the time limits and sanctions taken off people with long-term serious conditions. The WRAG was initially designed as a rehabilitation group for people who would get better and should revert to this.
All people with a serious long-term illness or disability deserve help back to work in a safe and supportive environment without time limits and sanctions and dividing them in to two groups should be abandoned.
If this one simple change were made to ESA all the problems of ESA would melt away.
It should be obvious from common sense and normal human empathy that applying undue pressure like time limits, sanctions and mandatory work activity to people with serious long term illness or disability is cruel and unnecessary. However the government is doing this so CarerWatch will endeavour to explain to the government why this is inappropriate. The government should bear in mind that with a severe long term condition -
People are worried about how robust they will be in the world of work
People are worried that they may not be able to attend at the reqired times on days when their condition is worse
People are worried that they won’t be able to fulfull the work that they used to do
People are worried that their condition will deteriorate
People are worried that if they are honest about their condition the employer will not choose them as the most promising candidate
People are worried that colleagues may resent it if they don’t perform as well as the rest
People are worried that the stress of working will make their condition worse
People are worried that they cannot cope with the journey to work
People are worried that their condition may be embarassing in the work place
People are worried that with high unemployment no one can be sure of finding a job
We could go on but we will pause here. We ask the government to think about these things. They have not walked in our shoes but with a little imagination they can surely see that time limits, threats, sanctions and mandatory work activity are not appropriate.
All people with serious long term conditions deserve respect and a supportive environment where they can be helped to find work if they want to but supported safely if they can’t. Sadly ESA does not provide this.
AND CARERWATCH HAVE TO ADD THAT WE HAVE NOT EVEN BEGUN TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS EXPERIENCED BY PEOPLE WITH SERIOUS LONG TERM CONDITIONS BEING THROWN STRAIGHT ON TO JOB SEEKERS ALLOWANCE
+ JUST SAY NO
August 2nd, 2011
CarerWatch call upon the disability charities to refuse to take part in the ESA back to work programme until it is made fit for purpose.
CarerWatch demand that ESA is changed to show respect to people with disability. CarerWatch ask the government to let people with disability access help back to work through a positive program without threats, sanctions and time limits.
Two million people are currently being forcibly migrated week by week from IB (Incapacity Benefit) to ESA (Employment Support Allowance). ESA is not fit for purpose and this is an emergency.
ESA is one enormous experiment in social engineering. The ideas were taken uncritically from the US and imposed with ideological fervour by the Labour government supported by the Conservative Opposition. During the debates in Parliament many politicians complained that they were being asked to sign a blank cheque. No testing was done before flawed WCA tests followed by a regime of threats and sanctions were visited on millions of people with disability. It’s hardly surprising that Professor Paul Gregg with hindsight is now demanding monitoring of the process to record the damage.
But an untried experiment is not the way to introduce massive changes to the welfare system. The time for trials and testing was before the programme started.
The migration is causing widespread alarm and suffering. The government have actually issued instructions to staff about assessing potential suicide risks.
ESA is flawed because it is based on a regime of tests, threats, sanctions and conditionality designed to catch cheats. None of this should be visited on people with serious, long term disability.
The Select Committee is calling on government and press to moderate their language and stop referring to people with disability as cheats and scroungers. But this misses the point. The government has brought in a benefit patently designed to catch cheats and scroungers. There is no other explanation of the harsh regime of conditionality and sanctions attached to this benefit. ESA is a regime of testing which plans to find two thirds of disability claimants fit for work – and then as they are fit for work it demands that they attend for ‘help’ and uses threats and sanctions to make them work. How can that be interpreted in any other way than that they think these people are cheats and scroungers.
The problem is not with the language – any more than it is with ATOS – a private firm who are doing exactly what they are employed to do. The problem is with the assumption of cheating in the design of ESA. ESA shows no respect to people with disability.
ESA should have been designed to help and support genuinely disabled people to work if they can. Why is there any need for conditionality, threats, sanctions and time limits if you believe that people have long term serious disability. If the government acknowledged the real physical and real world difficulties that disabled people have in finding and keeping work they would have introduced a positive and supportive regime where people would be invited for help if they want it without threats and sanctions. A regime where people with long term disability would feel safe and able to take risks and try to get work secure in the knowledge that their right to benefits will still be there if they can’t get work. Not a regime that threatens them.
CarerWatch understand that this is an enormous thing to ask the charities to do.
The charities are desperately short of funding and highly reliant on the government for funds.
Maria Miller – the Minister for Disability – has threatened the charities and demanded their loyalty.
But ESA is continuing to roll out and is replacing IB week by week. This situation is so serious that somebody has to step up and
JUST SAY NO.
Please come and discuss this campaign herebr>
+ The Danger of ESA
July 21st, 2011
CarerWatch believe that if the current migration from Incapacity Benefit to ESA continues unopposed - in two years time only 40% of those who were awarded the old IB will still be entitled to ESA. Only the 40% allocated to the Support Group will still receive ESA. And it won’t be because the rest are in work. The rest will have been harassed on to JSA or have been time limited and means tested off benefits.
And CarerWatch fear that this 40% will be the only ones to get PIP or CA in the future under UC.
Campaigners are mistakenly moving on from ESA and fighting the new battles on PIP and UC and leaving the original ESA master plan to chug along uncontested.
There are enormous problems with WCA and ESA but these are being presented as errors and teething problems. In fact they are inevitable because ESA is toxic by design. The aim was always to redefine most IB claimants as well enough to work and time limit their benefits.
If we allow the migration to ESA to chug on unopposed then 60% of IB claimants will probably in time lose entitlement to ESA, PIP, UC and CA.
And some good news. There is a new CEO at Scope who wasn’t part of the original ESA design.
And he wants to fight.
And some bad/ridiculous news
ESA appeals – 71% of people who received advice were successful, compared to 40% of those who didn’t
And this is supposed to be some kind of pseudo scientific test!
Read what Sue Marsh of the Broken of Britain says here
Read what Steve Griffiths says on Liberal Conspiracy here
Read what Kaliya of the Broken of Britain says here
THERE IS NO POINT BLAMING ATOS FOR DOING WHAT IT WAS EMPLOYED TO DO.
BLAME THE LAST GOVERNMENT AND THIS GOVERNMENT FOR TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY AS IF THEY ARE CRIMINALS AND NEED A CORRECTIONAL PROGRAMME INSTEAD OF SHOWING A TOUCH OF UNDERSTANDING, COMPASSION OR HUMANITY
This is a great piece of research here which shows how fanatical and misguided they are in their search for savings.
June 29th, 2011
Let’s fight video
CarerWatch and The Broken of Britain say
ESA is not fit for purpose. The welfare covenant between the government and people with disability has been broken.
This campaign aims to persuade the government that ESA is not fit for purpose and must be changed. People with disability need a safe place under ESA where they can receive back to work help IF they want it on a voluntary basis and where they are not subject to sanctions, threats and conditionality.
The disability charities should step forward and just say NO to conditionality. Until ESA is made safe they should not take part in delivering it. But the charities stand to make so much money as contractors delivering the forced back to work programs that they have a conflict of interest here and can’t represent people with disability who do not agree with the forced conditions in ESA and want ESA changed.
This is a joint campaigning site to get ESA changed.
Employment Support Allowance (ESA) replaced Incapacity Benefit as part of the Welfare Reform program. The Welfare Reforms are based on two guiding principles.
1. Work is the only route out of poverty.
2. Conditionality (which means mandated activity, threats and sanctions) is the way to ‘help’ people back to work.
Neither of these principles is appropriate for people with severe and enduring disability who need a safe place where they can control their own lives and move forward at their own pace. People with disability are being caught up in these reforms as collateral damage.
To the right of this notice is a sidebar that will direct you to information supporting this campaign.
You can find -
+Links to official documents
+Links to information on ATOS
+ links to what politicians, charities, campaigners and commentators are saying about ESA
+ links to evidence as to how ESA is being implemented on the ground
Keep reading for the latest information on this campaign. We can win this.
Let’s fight videobr>
+ The current state of play on ESA
April 11th, 2011
Sorry – the current state of play is not good.
The trials in Burnley and Aberdeen are completed. ESA is being rolled out nation wide. Two thirds of existing IB claimants are going to be thrown off disability benefits either immediately or within a year. This is a scandal. If it was any other group there would be an outcry but no one is speaking up for us. This is persecution.
This is what the government thinks – here
Asked by Lord German
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what conclusions they have drawn from the incapacity benefits transition trials in Burnley and Aberdeen.[HL8227]
Lord Freud: On the 11 February the department published interim findings from the trial. These showed that 1,347 decisions had been made at that time. Of these:
399 individuals were disallowed employment and support allowance (30 per cent); 422 individuals were allowed employment and support allowance and placed in the support group (31 per cent); and, 526 individuals were allowed employment and support allowance and placed in the Work Related Activity Group (39 per cent). These findings were broadly in line with the department’s estimates. However, at that time not all 1,700 trial customers had been through the reassessment process. There will be a formal research publication available in due course.
The trial has shown that the reassessment process is working well. It has also provided very valuable feedback and will enable us to enhance a number of areas of the reassessment process.
So the government thinks the trials show ESA is working well. Less than a third of people are getting in to the Support group of ESA. But over a third get in to the WRAG. This makes it look as if two thirds of people can keep a disability benefit.
But this is not true. Because the WRAG is only a temporary place to be processed off disability benefit.
A DWP statement says -
“It was never intended that ESA for those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) should be paid for an unlimited period to people who, by definition, are expected to move towards the workplace with help and support. Government intervention is required to help ensure that ESA is paid for a temporary period for those placed in the WRAG, thereby encouraging a return to work and stopping people being trapped on benefits for a lifetime.”
It is clear that the WRAG is meant to be a half way house until you get back to work. After a year you get thrown off the WRAG. So basically only the 31% who get in to the Support Group stay on ESA long term. The other 70% are going to be thrown off disability benefits. But they aren’t being honest. It looks as if 70% stay on because there is a year’s harassment before those temporarily parked in the the WRAG get thrown off so there is a delay. After that year with ESA down to 30% only those people in the Support Group will get PIP and CA and all the rest.
They know the back to work programs won’t deliver so they are taking emergency action to throw people off any way by time limiting and harassing the WRAG.
The disability charities can’t defend us. They have a conflict of interest because they are being offered money to act as service providers for the ESA roll out. here
We are on our own and being persecuted and almost no one is speaking up for us.
CarerWatch have submitted evidence to the DWP Select Committtee on ESA here
CarerWatch are dismayed by the alarm and fear the roll out of ESA is causing our members. Two thirds of current IB claimants are going to be thrown off disability benefits either immediately or by stealth. CarerWatch do not think ESA is fit for purpose and think the roll out should be halted until it is made fit for purpose.
The Welfare Reform Act says that any one allocated to ESA has a condition which makes it unreasonable to require them to work. If this is a long term condition they will always have barriers to finding and keeping work. The WRAG is a half way house - it is time limited and people will be sanctioned and forced off benefits. It is effectively requiring people to work which is illogical when this has been declared unreasonable. The WRAG should revert to its original role of a rehabilitation group for people who will get better
People with long term disability should be helped back to work from the Support Group.
With this one simple change to ESA the fear would go. ESA could become an excellent initiative to help people work and once the fear is removed people with long term disability might take a more positive approach and take a few risks to try and work