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.