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Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): a new harsher test

Thursday 16 September 2010

Read this:

Employment and Support Allowance: a new harsher test

If it’s too long, start halfway down at “Both old and new tests are based on scoring points”.

Or if that’s still too much, read these excerpts:

Some sentences are complete nonsense. Examples: ‘Customer does pottery all day’ (the claimant told the ‘doctor’ that she was pottering about) [Rightsnet Forum 2008] and: ‘The client’s Amputation of Upper Limb is mild. They have seen a specialist for this problem’ [Rightsnet Forum 2010].”

… Absurdity built in:

“A judge complained that Atos [the DWP’s contractor] refused publishing its handbook because of commercial confidentiality [CIB/664/2005]. For this reason, one of our clients will never know why LiMA decided that he can walk 100 metres, pick things from the floor and sit on a chair for 30 minutes on the basis that he is ‘usually able to use a microwave’ [BHUWC].”

… Unfairness built in:

“… low level problems score zero, while they were scoring something (three points) in the old test; yet the effect of combined low level problems can make people incapable to work [CAB, pp. 13-15].”

… The one that really scares me, with fibromyalgia, which fluctuates about as much as anything can:

“… the ‘doctors’ are recommended to disregard symptoms which come and go (variable conditions).
Back in 1996, a judicial decision had obliged the government to take variable conditions into account in the old test; now, using the excuse that the WCA is a new test, the government has wiped out what had been established!”

… Harshness built in:

“If we compare the old and new tests, descriptor by descriptor, we are surprised how strict the new test is.
Under the old PCA, for example, if a claimant was unable to walk up or down a flight of stairs of 12 steps, he scored 15 points and was ‘unfit to work’; if he could climb 12 steps only with the help of a banister, he could still score some points. Under the new WCA, in order to score more than zero, one should not be able to climb two steps, even with the help of a handrail. This is extreme.”

… extreme. Harsh, unfair, absurd.

My choice is between:

  • being a mother to my children;
  • ignoring my children in order to work at finding a way I can earn a living; and
  • concentrating all my limited time (disability is so time-consuming!) and limited energy not only on form-filling, but on working out what the questions on the forms even mean.

How would you prioritise?

… I feel helpless.

Related: Benefits and Work – Employment and Support (

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Thursday 17 March 2011 11.46 pm


    I’m sorry. It is really unfair to put people with disabilities through so much stress and trauma.


    • Friday 18 March 2011 2.58 pm

      I’m far from the worst off. The trouble is, those most in need are least able to fight for support. It ought not to be a question of fighting!

  2. Ted permalink
    Friday 17 September 2010 11.12 am

    Mand I think what they are doing is disgusting, A friend of mine who was retired early from (then) British Rail because of insulin dependant diabetes and was on incapacity benefit for 14 years was declared fit under this scheme. Even on appeal they claimed the findings were correct. He lost out, the worry put him in hospital, the hospital doctors and his G.P were ignored. What can you do?

    • Friday 17 September 2010 2.05 pm

      Ted, good to see you here! Yes, that’s exactly how I feel, there isn’t anything I can do. It’s always been true that a person dealing with disability or parenting or any other time-consuming problem has less voice than other people, because the problem itself leaves less time n energy for writing (blogs, letters to the papers, to MPs, etc). That was true before the System became as shabby as this. I just wish they’d go after tax fraudsters – who are both more numerous and more successful – with the enthusiasm they’re putting into going after benefits fraudsters.

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