Dec 222015

Would you be willing to take part in a focus group to discuss these experiences?

My name is Rosa Morris and I am doing research on:

changes over time in the way the government defines ‘disability’ for the purposes of employment-related disability benefits how this definition compares with disabled people’s lived experiences.

As part of the research I want to find out about:

disabled people’s experiences of the Work Capability Assessment how well they think the WCA reflects and understands their experience of impairment and disability.

I am a disabled person myself with experience of applying for Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance. I hope this research will give a greater voice to disabled people and their experiences.


First focus group looking for disabled people to take part on Wednesday 27th January 2016, 2-4pm


Second focus group Wednesday 3rd February 2016, 2-4pm


I am particularly keen to include the experiences of people with mental health difficulties in the research, in order to explore:

  • people’s experiences of the Work Capability Assessment
  • how well they think the WCA reflects and understands their experiences.


Both meetings will be at at 336 Brixton Road, London SW9 7AA.

All travel and access expenses will be reimbursed – please contact me if you have any access requirements to be able to take part.

All participants’ details will be kept anonymous. You will be able to withdraw your consent at any time before or during the focus group and for up to 3 months after participation. All focus group participants will be asked to respect other participants’ confidentiality.

If you are interested in taking part and/or would like to speak to me, in confidence, to find out more information please email me at

Thanks very much for reading this.








 Posted by at 18:29
Aug 012015

We have all been disappointed over the last few days by the case of the disappearing DWP ESA Sanctions leaflet-first it was there, then it was gone.  The DWP link tells us that the leaflet is coming soon, but what happened to the original?

A few of us had seen the leaflet before it was removed and noted that the DWP were using photos and examples, apparently in an effort to appear humane ( stop laughing).

One of the examples: Sarah’s story, happily tells of her being sanctioned for two weeks because she didn’t see the value of completing her CV as ordered by the DWP Job Centre goons. Sarah is almost in raptures as she recounts how she’s learned her lesson and recognises the error of her wilful ways-she’s grateful for losing 2 weeks of her ESA and for being sanctioned- the moral is: its good to be punished and put on the right path by potential starvation when you’ve already been told you’re not fit for work after a dehumanising assessment by Maximus .  See excerpt from original leaflet below

sarah's story

But there was a problem which the DWP seems to have recognised- no, not that ESA is about being unfit for work-but that smiling Sarah with her remarkable tale of the kindly people at the job centre probably doesn’t exist other than as a stock photo. Here she is again, this time as a cover girl for the despised Universal Credit ‘standing out from the crowd’ at

We are quite used to this kind of behaviour from the Daily Mail who use actors to pose as ‘benefit scroungers’ for their readers

but then there isn’t that much difference between the lies of the Mail and the lies of the DWP is there? See DPAC’s DWP caught giving disability propaganda to Daily Mail

Naturally DPAC has the original DWP ESA Sanctions leaflet which also features the story of Zac. It can be downloaded at the link employment-and-support-allowance-sanctions

We’d appreciate word of any sightings of Zac in TV ads, magazines or other DWP propaganda in the meantime you might like to follow Steven Preece’s Freedom of Information request on this.

..and remember DWP we’re watching you….



With thanks to Anita Bellows, Rik B and Steven Preece

 Posted by at 23:10
May 242015

posted from

@refuted with thanks

There are reports that Jobcentres are refusing to allow people attending Jobcentre appointments to be accompanied by representatives, including family members or friends.

Below is a draft letter based upon DWP policy on ‘Working with representatives‘ and a DWP FOI response about being accompanied at Jobcentre appointments.

If you have a health or disability related reason for needing to be accompanied at a Jobcentre, you can also add to the draft letter below something like:

‘I am making this request to be accompanied and supported at the Jobcentre under the Equality Act as a reasonable adjustment, due to my health and or disability related needs’

It is recommended to attach a copy of the DWP FOI response: to your letter.

—– draft letter——-

Dear Jobcentre Plus,

RE: Support at Jobcentre appointments

I am writing to advise that I want my representative [name of supporter/organisation] to attend Jobcentre appointments with me for support and act upon my behalf with regards my benefit claim(s).

This request is in accordance with your own ‘Working with representatives‘ policy, which can be viewed at:

Attached is a letter from the DWP [Your Ref: 634] that gives a summary of your ‘Working with representatives’ policy, which confirms I can have a representative “accompany” me at Jobcentre appointments, for sake of clarification your policy says a representative can be:

– advice or welfare rights organisations
– professionals such as social workers, community nurses or doctors
– family members or friends

Yours faithfully


Notes: When possible it is highly recommended to make a formal request, to be accompanied at a Jobcentre appointment, in advance. You could do so by phoneor email, or at an actual Jobcentre appointment and follow up the request with a letter, including a copy of the FOI response:


 Posted by at 14:23
May 202015

If you have been sanctioned for not engaging in work related activity or threatened with a sanction while on employment support allowance-we want to hear from you for a potential legal challenge. Please email us at:

We all know what sanctions do to people; we all know that sanctions have led to needless, avoidable and unforgivable deaths.  With sanctions for those on employment support allowance increasing (up 25%), with 50,000 of those sanctions imposed for not engaging in a work related activity with some affecting mental health users- Its beyond time to act against this outrage

For those facing sanctions we also provide some practical info from @refuted below.

All info is up to date although stats are now out of date

With many thanks to refuted for the info


May 012015

[Reblogged from Vox Political]

Brian McArdle. On the BBC’s Question Time in November 2012, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, “57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’.”

Brian McArdle. On the BBC’s Question Time in November 2012, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, “57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’.”

The Department for Work and Pensions has been ordered to disclose the number of Incapacity Benefit and ESA claimants who have died between November 2011 and May 2014.

The ruling comes from the Information Commissioner after an appeal by Vox Political‘s Mike Sivier.

But it seems likely to have been delayed – possibly for political reasons. If the number of deaths has been high, then it would generate a backlash against the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties that presided over them in the Coalition Government.

Mr Sivier said: “The decision notice was ready in February, but the Information Commissioner’s Office delayed its release for reasons that have not been given. Suppose a large number of deaths have taken place – I have heard suggestions that 60,000 people or more may have died as a result of government policy.

“It seems clear that the revelation of many deaths may turn voters away from supporting the Conservatives or Lib Dems – so it seems appropriate to question that delay. Will the election result be valid if the number of deaths is not known on May 7?”

The DWP had refused a Freedom of Information request on the grounds that the information would be published in the future (a section 22 exemption) – but the Information Commisioner found that officials had been wrong to do so.

The ruling means the DWP must disclose – within 35 calendar days of April 30 – the number of IB and ESA claimants who have died between November 2011 and May 2014, broken down into the following categories:

  • Those in the assessment phase,
  • Those who were found fit for work,
  • Those who were placed in the work-related activity group,
  • Those who were placed in the support group, and
  • Those who had an appeal pending.

In his ruling, the Commissioner states: “It appears … that the DWP has had reasonable time to prepare for publishing [the] information and that disclosure was not so novel or unusual given the previous requests and disclosures made.

“DWP have not supplied any detailed or convincing evidence about the time needed and what preparation would need to be undertaken during this time or what the specific impact of disclosure would be… The DWP has previously published similar information.

The decision notice continued: “It is not reasonable for the DWP, having had enough time to extract the information and prepare internally for publication, to seek further time to provide the information requested.

“The Commissioner also finds that delaying publication is not reasonable in light of the requests DWP have received from the public and the fact that the previous statistics published were around two years old at the time of the request.”

Mr Sivier said he had first asked for information on benefit-related deaths in the summer of 2013: “It was almost a year after the DWP had published an ‘ad hoc’ report entitled Incapacity Benefits (Deaths of Claimants).

“That document stated that 10,600 people had died between January and November 2011, while claiming benefits that should have helped them survive with a reasonable quality of life. Some of those people may have died because of their conditions but evidence that has become available since suggests that many died due to the stress of constant reassessment by an unsympathetic government department that was determined to clear as many people off its books as possible, no matter what the health risks might be.”

He said: “I knew that other FOI requests had been made in November 2012 – a year after the last date covered in the ‘ad hoc’ report – but they had been refused. When I made my request in June 2013, I publicised it via my website, Vox Political, and asked for others to submit a similar request in the hope that weight of numbers might sway the DWP. This was a mistake as the department was able to use FOI rules to dismiss my request as being ‘vexatious’.

“I made a new request last May, and the DWP illegally delayed its response by several months. When ministers finally denied me the information, claiming they would be publishing it at an unspecified date in the future, I checked the rules and found that they were wrong. That is why I appealed to the Information Commissioner – and I am delighted that the Commissioner has upheld my appeal.”

Under the Freedom of Information Act, the DWP may appeal to the Information Rights Tribunal, but Mr Sivier said he doubted any such appeal would succeed: “I took my first request to a tribunal and, although the decision was upheld, the judges stated that they were extremely sympathetic to my cause.

“They said they did not see any reason why another FOI request, properly made out, should not be successful. That is why I tried again.”

Follow Mike on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

 Posted by at 21:51
Mar 312015

With thanks to John Slater for this – follow him on twitter : @AmateurFOI

This post contains guidance about what to do if you need more time to fill in your forms for ESA/WCA or you are unable to make your WCA within the DWP Time Limits.

Parts 1 & 2 of the post give the legal basis for the advice, parts 3 onwards give practical advice on what claimants need to do, and part 9 gives 3 template letters that you can copy and paste or download, and then amend for your own circumstances and send to DWP.

Table of Contents (click on the title to go directly to each section)

  1. ESA Deadlines and Rules
  2. Legislation and DWP Decision Makers Guides
  3. What Does This Mean For Claimants?
  4. ESA Questionnaire Deadline of 4 Weeks
  5. Only Reschedule WCA for a Maximum of 4 Weeks and Only Reschedule WCA Once
  6. Possible reasons for not being able to meet conditions
  7. Sending Information to the DWP in the Post
  8. “Belt and Braces” Approach
  9. Letter Templates
    9.1 Responding to receiving ESA Questionnaire in the post
    9.2 Need to reschedule a WCA for more than 4 weeks (first time)
    9.3 Need to reschedule a WCA having done so previously

1. ESA Deadlines and Rules

If you have had to claim Employment and Support Allowance (“ESA”) you may have come across two deadlines and one rule that you were told you had to abide by. For the purposes of this article these will be referred to as the “Conditions”. These are:

You must return your ESA application form within 4 weeks.

You can only defer your Work Capability Assessment (“WCA”) for a maximum of 4 weeks.

You can only defer your WCA once.

The legislation (primary and secondary) that specifies how ESA works does not mention any time limits and doesn’t state that WCA can only be deferred once.

The DWP and Atos Healthcare (and no doubt Maximus will do the same) have always presented the Conditions as having a statutory basis and that if you don’t follow them to the letter you could have your claim refused. Are we being told the whole truth?

I don’t think we are. The Conditions are actually just internal DWP policies. This means that someone in the DWP simply invented them and imposes them on ESA claimants.

In response to an FOIA request made on 30th December 2012 the DWP stated:

Appointments may be deferred for up to four weeks from the date of request, for any circumstance, including the non-availability of recording equipment. After this time the case will be withdrawn from the system by Atos Healthcare and returned to DWP to make a decision.

When challenged that it hadn’t explained how it came up with the 4 week deadline it eventually responded:

“… the 4 week deferment was simply a concession made by the Department to acknowledge that claimants may have a pre-existing appointment or commitment which may prevent them from attending the original appointment.  This was an operational not ministerial decision and documentation on how this four week period was derived is not available.”

It seems that whoever made this Condition up within the DWP didn’t bother to document the reason why 4 weeks was selected. It’s appalling that one of the biggest Government Departments makes and documents decisions that have such a huge impact on people in such an unprofessional manner.

The following was found on the Atos Healthcare Blog web site:
If you’re not able to make your appointment, you can call us to rearrange it, but it’s important to note that we aren’t allowed to rearrange your appointment more than once. If for any reason you’re not able to attend your rearranged appointment, we’ll need to send your information back to Jobcentre Plus. They will then let you know whether or not you can rearrange your appointment a second time.”

The following section looks at what the legislation and the DWP own Decision Makers Guides (“DMG”) says about the DWP imposition of the three Conditions. This is important as departments such as the DWP are reliant on legislation to prescribe the powers that they operate by.

2. Legislation and DWP Decision Makers Guides

For people that may not be familiar with DMG, they are the official DWP publications that tell DWP Decision Makers what the law is and how they should apply it. Using the DWP own words the DMG are “… for DWP staff who make decisions about benefits and pensions. It helps them make decisions that are accurate and consistent.”

DMG are published online and can be found at the following link:

Without boring you by repeating lines of legislation, ESA claimants can be required to provide information and evidence to determine that they have limited capability for work (“LCW”) and/or limited capability for work related activity (“LCWRA”). You would expect this to be the case as that’s how applications are made for ESA.

Claimants can also be required to attend and submit themselves to a medical examination to determine their capabilities against criteria defined in legislation.

The DMG are very illuminating in respect of the Conditions. The table below shows the relevant clauses taken from Volume 8 (amendment 4 February 2010). Each clause in the DMG usually refers to the specific legislation that allows the DWP to behave in specific ways. For example clause 42222 below cites the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 No. 794  (using the abbreviation “ESA Regs”).  However, as we see later, in respect of the conditions being discussed this isn’t always the case.

Emphasis to text in the table below (bold and colour) has been added in by the author. Please note that the grammatical and typographical errors which appear below in this table are not mine! They appear in the original DWP documents.

Table 1: Extracts from volume 8 of the DMG

Clause Guidance
42221 A claimant can be treated as not having LCW if1.     they fail without good cause to provide information, attend or submit to examination (see DMG 42224)
42222 A claimant can be required to1.    provide certain information asked for by the DM including the return of the questionnaire (see DMG 42224)
42224 A claimant who is subject to the LCWA can be asked to provide information relating to their ability to perform activities referred to in Appendix 1. This information is usually asked by sending the claimant a questionnaire.
42227 A claimant is treated as not having LCW for failure to return the questionnaire without good cause if the Secretary of State can show that1.     the questionnaire was sent and2.    there is no response after six weeks to the first requests for the information       from the day following the date of issue and3.    a further request was sent at least four weeks after the first letter and at leasttwo weeks have passed since then and4.    good cause has not been accepted for delay beyond the period stated in 2. and

3. above.


42228 The DM needs to make sure that the Secretary of State has complied with the duty set out in the legislation to send the questionnaire and the reminder to the claimant. The DM can accept that it has been sent if there is a record of issue and no indication that it was not properly addressed, stamped and posted.
42232 As in DMG 42228 the law imposes time limits on the Secretary of State in relation to the sending of the questionnaire and the reminder. However, there is no law imposing a time limit on the claimant for the return of the questionnaire. Sometimes the questionnaire is returned after the time limit imposed on the Secretary of State but before the DM has considered whether there was good cause for the earlier failure to return the questionnaire. In these circumstances, the determination cannot be made because it cannot be held that the claimant has failed to return the questionnaire. Instead, normal WCA action should resume.
42247 Only one rescheduled appointment can be offered during a WCA referral. If the claimant cannot attend the rescheduled appointment, medical services will record that the claimant failed to attend. The DM will have to consider the reasons why the claimant cannot attend and consider good cause (see DMG 42261).End of ClauseComment by the AuthorSurprisingly this entry in the DMG does not refer to any primary or secondary legislation. This seems to support the view presented here that imposing a single reschedule for a WCA is nothing more than a DWP internal policy. However, it seems sensible to get the DWP to clarify if its approach is backed by specific legislation or it just decided to impose the condition. Therefore, the following FOI request was submitted:
42261 When a claimant fails to return the questionnaire of fails to attend or submit to examination, consideration of good cause includes1. whether the claimant was outside GB at the relevant time and2. the claimant’s state of health at the relevant time and3. the nature of any disability the claimant hasNote: this is not exhaustive (see DMG 42262-42276 for further guidance on good cause)

The abbreviations used for primary and secondary legislation within the actual DMG are defined in the documents that can be found here:

So, in respect of the deadline to submit your ESA questionnaire the DMG is very helpful. It explicitly confirms that there is no law imposing a time limit on the claimant for the return of the questionnaire.

In respect of only being able to defer a WCA for a maximum of 4 weeks the DMG is completely silent. This supports that this is an arbitrary limit imposed by the DWP.

In the matter of only being able to reschedule a WCA once the DWP response to the FOI request (at same link as given above) confirmed that only allowing a WCA to be rescheduled once is simply a DWP policy (one that apparently dates back to the days of Incapacity Benefit).  This raises the question about how lawful it is for the DM to treat people as ‘failing to attend a WCA’ simply for wanting to reschedule a WCA more than once. Interestingly the DWP attempted to side step this part of the FOI request. An internal review request has been submitted to see if the DWP can provide any information to support its view that by asking for a WCA to be rescheduled more than once a person is ‘failing to attend a WCA’. I suspect this will turn out to be another example of the DWP simply imposing Conditions which it has invented

3. What Does This Mean For Claimants?

If these Conditions imposed by the DWP are not prescribed in law does that mean we can simply ignore them? The answer is no, we can’t. If a case came before a Tribunal dealing with these conditions it is highly likely that it would look at what is reasonable in that particular case. It would also consider the actions of the person claiming ESA. If you simply ignored the DWP whilst being in a position of being able to contact them I doubt the Tribunal would be particularly sympathetic to your case.

However, if you did everything that could reasonably be expected of someone in your position to engage with the DWP and your specific circumstances meant that the conditions imposed by the DWP were not reasonable, then it is highly likely that the Tribunal would find in your favour.

However, the best outcome would be to avoid having to take your case to a Tribunal in the first place. The following sections look at the sort of actions you could take to protect yourself if you can’t meet the DWP imposed Conditions.

4.     ESA Questionnaire Deadline of 4 Weeks

As soon as you receive the questionnaire in the post you need to do something, don’t just ignore it.

Make an appointment to see your GP, Practice Nurse or other Healthcare Professional that you normally deal with and explain what is going on and the negative impact the situation is having on your health. Ask them to make a note about the situation in your health record and ideally see if they will give you a letter/note explaining that the 4 week deadline is unreasonable. If you can’t get an appointment with your GP or others, then ask one or two people (family or close friends) to write you a letter (signed and dated) explaining how unwell you are and why the 4 week deadline is unreasonable for your particular circumstances.

Write back immediately (including copies of any letters supporting your position) explaining that you won’t be able to meet the 4 week deadline and that you have made an appointment to see your GP/Nurse/Other Healthcare Professional as receiving the questionnaire has made you feel so unwell. Personally I wouldn’t try to do this over the telephone as it is much harder to prove what you said.

Be totally clear that you are not refusing to provide the requested information. Explain that you will comply with your statutory obligations within fair and reasonable timescales that are appropriate to your specific circumstances.

Explain why the 4 week deadline isn’t reasonable for your circumstances (see later for possible examples).

Explain that you are aware that the law does not impose a deadline on the return of the questionnaire (you could cite the relevant DMG clause 42232 if you feel comfortable doing so).

Suggest your own deadline. If you do this it needs to be reasonable and most important of all you need to be able to meet it. Don’t replace their unreasonable deadline with another one of your own.

Explain why your deadline is fair and reasonable for your specific circumstances.

State that unless the DWP challenges your revised deadline in writing within 7 calendar days of posting your letter it will have been deemed to have accepted it.

Keep a copy of all letters you send along with proof of postage (see section about writing to the DWP later).

5.     Only Reschedule WCA for a Maximum of 4 Weeks and Only Reschedule WCA Once

As soon as you receive the questionnaire in the post you need to do something, don’t just ignore it.

Make an appointment to see your GP, Practice Nurse or other Healthcare Professional who you normally deal with and explain what is going on and the negative impact the situation is having on your health. Ask them to make a note about the situation in your health record and ideally see if they will give you a letter/note explaining that the 4 week limit / only one reschedule is unreasonable. If you can’t get an appointment with your GP or others, then ask one or two people (family or close friends) to write you a letter (signed and dated) explaining how unwell you are and why the 4 week limit is unreasonable for your circumstances.

As soon as you know that you cannot attend your WCA you should write (including copies of any letters supporting your position) to the appropriate organisation (Maximus) to notify them that you cannot attend. If the date of the WCA is a week or less away it would be sensible to notify them by telephone (you or someone you authorise) and explain that an explanatory letter will follow shortly. Regardless of whether you are able to comply with the DWP imposed conditions, it is always sensible to notify changes in writing in order to protect yourself. It is important to make a written record of when the telephone call took place (date and time), the name of the person you spoke to and what, if anything, was agreed.

Be absolutely clear that you are not refusing to attend or submit to a WCA. Explain that you will comply with your statutory obligations within fair and reasonable timescales that are reasonable and appropriate for your specific circumstances.

Explain why you need to reschedule your WCA and why rescheduling is fair and reasonable for your specific circumstances (see later for examples).

Explain that you are aware that the law does not impose a maximum limit of 4 weeks for rescheduling a WCA or set a limit of only one reschedule (as appropriate to your circumstances).

Suggest your own revised date and time, if it is appropriate for your condition, for the rescheduled WCA. If you do this your suggestion needs to be reasonable and most important of all you need to be able to meet it. Don’t replace their unreasonable deadline with another one of your own.

Explain why your deadline is fair and reasonable for your specific circumstances.

State that unless the DWP challenges your revised deadline in writing within 7 calendar days of posting your letter it will have been deemed to have accepted it.

Keep a copy of all letters you send along with proof of postage (see section about writing the DWP later).

6. Possible reasons for not being able to meet conditions

Whatever reason(s) you cite you need to be able to explain why it is appropriate to your specific circumstances, e.g.

  • The current state of your health is such that it is not reasonable to expect you to comply with the relevant Condition imposed by the DWP.
  • Your specific condition means that the imposed deadlines are unreasonable. For example:
  • Mental health conditions that make it hard to complete the questionnaire.
  • Side effects of medication mean it takes you longer to complete the questionnaire.
  • Aspects of your physical condition, e.g. pain, exhaustion etc, mean it takes you longer to complete the questionnaire.
  • You are in hospital or receiving treatment that means that it is not reasonable to expect you to comply with the deadline imposed by the DWP.
  • You will be out of the country or on holiday within the UK at the time of the appointment or during the 4 week deadline to complete the questionnaire.
  • Attempting to comply with the deadline will exacerbate your condition and therefore cause you actual physical and/or psychological harm.
  • You need to be accompanied to attend the WCA and it isn’t possible to get someone within the current timescales.
  • You need help to complete the questionnaire (e.g. the CAB, other organisation or family member) and that won’t be available to you in adequate time to allow you to meet the deadline.
  • You have other appointments (e.g. treatments, seeing Consultants, tests etc) which clash with the imposed dates.
  • It could be that you are suffering from something unrelated to your health condition such as the flu.
  • You are waiting for the results of tests that will be key evidence for your ESA claim and want to be able to include them in your questionnaire or present them at your WCA.

By refusing to change the deadline or reschedule WCA the DWP places you at a significant disadvantage and could be breaching of your human rights. This is likely to be applicable alongside the other reasons.

7. Sending Information to the DWP in the Post

A common problem when dealing with the DWP seems to be information going missing. This includes information delivered by hand to JCP buildings and documents sent through the post. The scale of the problem via the postal route suggests that there is something else going on other than the odd letter going missing. I am aware of letters being ignored (or not arriving at the right person’s desk!) until they are resent using the very expensive Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed® service which means a signature must be obtained. It seems that using the much cheaper Royal Mail Signed For® service doesn’t guarantee that your letter is ‘signed for’.

It’s not reasonable to expect people to pay over £5 to be sure a letter is delivered to the DWP. Is there anything you can do to protect yourself? I think there is. Once again the DWP DMG has been helpful. When addressing proof that letters from the DWP have been sent it refers to the Interpretation Act 1978. Clause 7 states:

Where an Act authorises or requires any document to be service by post. Served by post (whether the expression “serve” or the expression ” give ” or ” send ” or any other expression is used) then, unless the contrary intention appears, the service is deemed to be effected by properly addressing, pre-paying and posting a letter containing the document and, unless the contrary is proved, to have been effected at the time at which the letter would be delivered in the ordinary course of post.”

In plain English this means that if it can be shown that the envelope was properly addressed, contained the letter in question and the correct stamp was applied then the law considers the letter delivered unless it can be proved otherwise. If this is good enough for the DWP then it is good enough for the rest of us.  So how do we do this is practice?

Keep a copy of all documents you send to the DWP

It is always good practice to keep copies of everything you send to the DWP as it does have an unfortunate habit of losing things! This is relatively easy if you have access to a computer, printer and a scanner. If you don’t have access to such computer equipment then your smartphone or digital camera can help. Take photographs of every page of each document you send to the DWP and try to store it in a location where it won’t get deleted accidentally. Many smartphones allow you to write to memory cards so you could use one of these to store photographs of your correspondence with the DWP. You could also ask family or friends for help if they own a computer and a scanner.

Properly addressed and correct postage

If you are not sure about the correct postage you can use a set of digital kitchen scales to weigh your letter and you can find the correct stamp rates on the Royal Mail website. Another alternative is to take your letter to the post office and ask them to weigh it for you. You can then take a photograph of the envelope with the correct address and stamp.

Once you have addressed the envelope and affixed the stamp either scan it or take a photograph. You can also include the front page of your letter in the picture or scan to show a clear link between the letter and the completed envelope.

Proof that it has been posted

Whilst it costs money to send letters using the Royal Mail’s special delivery services it doesn’t cost you anything to get proof of postage at the Post Office. If you take your letter to your local Post Office they will print you off a proof of postage receipt. This serves two purposes. It proves you actually sent the letter and it shows that you put the correct value stamp on (otherwise the Post Office counter would not accept it).

One thing to be aware of is that the receipts may be printed on heat sensitive paper and these fade over time or turn black if left in sunlight. When you have your proof of postage always make a copy by using your scanner or your camera.

8. “Belt and Braces” Approach

If you want to adopt a “belt and braces” approach to corresponding with the DWP then you might consider the following. The next time you write to the DWP explain that you are aware of clause 7 of the Interpretation Act 1978 and that you always retain copies of any documents sent to the DWP along with proof that the correct address was used, the correct postage affixed and proof of postage. You could always add that you retain the right to seek financial compensation if due to the negligence of the DWP (i.e. losing your correspondence) you suffer financial loss. This would amount to the costs for paper, ink, envelopes, stamps etc.

9. Letter Templates

9.1 Responding to receiving ESA Questionnaire in the post.

Your Name
Post Code

Name of Person or Organisation
Post Code

Date: <DATE>
Ref: <Your NINO>

Dear Sir/Madam,
Submission of ESA50 Questionnaire

I received an ESA50 questionnaire on <DATE RECEIVED>. I understand that the DWP imposes an internal policy of a 4 week deadline for the return of the questionnaire. I am aware that in the DWP own decision makers guide, clause 42232 states “… there is no law imposing a time limit on the claimant for the return of the questionnaire.”

For my circumstances this internal policy is manifestly unreasonable for the following reasons:

<Explain the reason(s) why it is not reasonable to expect you to meet the 4 week deadline here. Include that you have made an appointment(s) to see your GP, Nurse, etc due to the impact of receiving the questionnaire. If you are going to include letters from people supporting you say so here.>

I believe that the <Enter Date> is a reasonable date for me to submit the completed questionnaire given my particular circumstances. Unless I hear to the contrary within 7 calendar days of posting this letter, the DWP will be deemed to have accepted my proposed submission date. My proposed submission date is appropriate to my circumstances for the following reasons:

<Enter the reasons why your proposed submission date is fair and reasonable given your circumstances>

I wish to be absolutely clear that I am not refusing to complete and return the questionnaire and will always comply with the legal obligations arising out of my ESA claim. I am aware that should a DWP Decision Maker seek to obtain “Good Cause” from me in this matter they are likely to be acting unlawfully as they will be acting in their own cause, i.e. judging against an internal DWP policy. The relevant precedent in this matter is R v Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy ([1924] 1 KB 256, [1923] All ER Rep 233).

Failing to give me reasonable time to submit evidence via the questionnaire could constitute a breach of my human rights.

Please be aware that I have retained a copy of this letter (including the address used) and proof of postage.

Yours faithfully

Your Name

You can download a copy of this letter in word document format here Template Letter 1 – Responding to receiving ESA Questionnaire in the post

9.2 Need to reschedule a WCA for more than 4 weeks (first time).


Your Name
Post Code

Name of Person or Organisation
Post Code

Date: <DATE>
Ref: <Your NINO>

Dear Sir/Madam,
Rescheduling of Work Capability Assessment

I need to reschedule my Work Capability Assessment (“WCA”) that is currently arranged for <enter date & time> at <enter location>. I understand that the DWP imposes an internal policy of only permitting a WCA to be rescheduled for a maximum of 4 weeks and that this has no statutory basis.

For my circumstances this internal policy is manifestly unreasonable for the following reasons:

<Explain the reason(s) why it is not reasonable to expect you to attend a WCA within the next 4 weeks. Include that you have made an appointment(s) to see your GP, Nurse, etc due to the impact of the date of the WCA. If you are going to include letters from people supporting you say so here.>

I believe that the <Enter Date> at <Enter Time> is a reasonable date and time for me attend for a WCA given my particular circumstances. Unless I hear to the contrary within 7 calendar days of posting this letter the DWP will be deemed to have accepted my proposed date for my WCA. My proposed date is appropriate to my circumstances for the following reasons:

<Enter the reasons why your proposed date to attend for a WCA is fair and reasonable given your circumstances>

I wish to be absolutely clear that I am not refusing to attend and submit to an examination (WCA) and will always comply with the legal obligations arising out of my ESA claim. I am aware that should a DWP Decision Maker seek to obtain “Good Cause” from me in this matter they are likely to be acting unlawfully as they will be acting in their own cause, i.e. judging against an internal DWP policy. The relevant precedent in this matter is R v Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy ([1924] 1 KB 256, [1923] All ER Rep 233).

Failing to give me the opportunity to attend a WCA to present relevant evidence within a timescale that is appropriate for my particular circumstances could constitute a breach of my human rights.

Please be aware that I have retained a copy of this letter (including the address used) and proof of postage.

Yours faithfully

Your Name

You can download a copy of this letter in word document format here Template Letter 2 – reschedule a WCA for more than 4 weeks (first time)

9.3 Need to reschedule a WCA having done so previously.

Your Name
Post Code

Name of Person or Organisation
Post Code

Date: <DATE>
Ref: <Your NINO>

Dear Sir/Madam,
Rescheduling of Work Capability Assessment

I need to reschedule my Work Capability Assessment (“WCA”) that is currently arranged for <enter date & time> at <enter location>. I understand that the DWP imposes an internal policy of only permitting a WCA to be rescheduled once and that this has no statutory basis.

For my circumstances this internal policy is manifestly unreasonable for the following reasons:

<Explain the reason(s) why it is not reasonable to allow you to reschedule your WCA again. Include that you have made an appointment(s) to see your GP, Nurse, etc due to the impact of the date of the WCA. If you are going to include letters from people supporting you say so here.>

I believe that the <Enter Date> at <Enter Time> is a reasonable date and time for me attend for a WCA given my particular circumstances. Unless I hear to the contrary within 7 calendar days of posting this letter the DWP will be deemed to have accepted my proposed date for my WCA. My proposed date is appropriate to my circumstances for the following reasons:

<Enter the reasons why your proposed date to attend for a WCA is fair and reasonable given your circumstances>

I wish to be absolutely clear that I am not refusing to attend and submit to an examination (WCA) and will always comply with the legal obligations arising out of my ESA claim. I am aware that should a DWP Decision Maker seek to obtain “Good Cause” from me in this matter they are likely to be acting unlawfully as they will be acting in their own cause, i.e. judging against an internal DWP policy. The relevant precedent in this matter is R v Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy ([1924] 1 KB 256, [1923] All ER Rep 233).

Failing to give me the opportunity to reschedule my WCA such that I can attend to present relevant evidence within a timescale that is appropriate for my particular circumstances could constitute a breach of my human rights.

Please be aware that I have retained a copy of this letter (including the address used) and proof of postage.

Yours faithfully

Your Name

You can download a copy of this letter in word document format here Template Letter 3 – reschedule a WCA having done so previously

 Posted by at 13:01
Mar 042015

From 1st March Maximus took over the contract for carrying out the notorious Work Capability Assessment.

Disabled campaigners and our supporters are clear that simply altering the provider will fail to correct the gross injustice that the WCA represents. This is an assessment that seeks to redefine who is and is not disabled in order to push the most disadvantaged members of society off benefits while lining the pockets of the private sector with public money.

Maximus, a company with a history of disability discrimination and improper practices, will be paid more than double what Atos was for the contract. Meanwhile very little will have changed: Maximus will be using the same buildings, many of which are not accessible to disabled people, assessment staff will still not necessarily have any knowledge of the conditions they are evaluating, and, most significantly, the fundamental flaws of the assessment which tests functionality as opposed to employability will continue.

The only way to ensure a fair and just social security system is to scrap the Work Capability Assessment and bring benefit tests back within the public sector.

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, PCS Union
John McDonnell MP
Paula Peters, National Steering Committee, Disabled People Against Cuts
Ellen Clifford, Inclusion London
Jane Aitchison, PCS, Joint National Secretary Unite the Resistance
Katy Clark MP
Ian Hodson, National President, Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Mick Carney, National President, Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association
Sean McGovern, TUC GC Councillor for Disabled Members
Siobhan Endead, National Officer for Equalities, Unite the Union
Linda Burnip, Disabled People against Cuts
Debbie Jolly, Disabled People against Cuts
Andy Greene, Disabled People against Cuts
Roger Lewis, Disabled People against Cuts
Anita Bellows, Disabled People against Cuts
Bob Ellard, Disabled People against Cuts
Denise McKenna, Mental Health Resistance Network
Jane Bence, New Approach
John McArdle, Co-Founder Black Triangle Campaign (Edinburgh)
David Churchley, Co-Founder Black Triangle (Glasgow)
Dr Stephen Carty GP,  Member and Medical Adviser Black Triangle
Steven Preece, Welfare Weekly Editor
Johnny Void, Johnny Void blog
Carole Ford, WOWcampaign
Laura Stringhetti, WOWcampaign
Michelle Maher, WOWcampaign
Ian Jones, WOWcampaign
Frances Kelly, CarerWatch
Rick Burgess, NewApproach
Eleanor Lisney, Sisters of Frida
Mark Harrison, Equal Lives
Sarah Hatch, South East London People’s Assembly
Amanda Nelson, South East London People’s Assembly
Pat Onions, Pat’s Petition
Anne Pridmore, Being the Boss

 Posted by at 20:47
Mar 022015

Just a small fraction of some of todays tweets, pictures and videos from today’s National Day of Action vs Maximarse

Thanks to everyone who took part, on the streets in 30 towns and cities, on twitter and in solidarity with us in far away Toronto

See more here from Kate Belgrave, a storify by Paul Bull, and Johnny Void’s Blogpost about the day of action

Maximarse the Movie


























 Posted by at 21:28
Feb 282015

Government responds to the 5th independent review of the Work Capability Assessment

Thanks to Nick Dilworth – &

Disabled activist groups need to vigorously protest against these heartless work tests.  To date Government has shown no sign of taking any of their views seriously. One thing is for sure, no amount of window dressing will make it any better.

The government has published its response to the fifth review of the Work Capability Assessment.

It looks as though it’s there to give Maximus a green light to diminishing the large numbers of claimants currently placed in the Support Group of the DWP’s Employment & Support Allowance.

As of May 2014 DWP figures confirm there were 1,031,480 ESA claimants in the Support Group of which 480,930 were recorded as having a mental health problem.  Of the overall total 631,160 were migrated from older incapacity benefits of which 298,840 had a mental health problem.

Infographic showing just how big a failure ESA has been. Produced by Nick Dilworth @Mylegalforum
Infographic showing just how big a failure ESA has been. Produced by Nick Dilworth – & Supporting statistics can be seen at the end of this post


The review response comes just after the DWP’s newly appointed replacement for the infamous Atos, a global firm called Maximus announced it will conduct a staggering one million work capability assessments by the end of 2015.  The response is accompanied by a set of exceptionally vague supporting statistics which unsurprisingly focus on Iain Duncan Smith’s number one concern; the large number of Employment & Support Allowance claimants with a mental health problem who have been placed in the Support Group – it’s breaking IDS’s budget and causing his chancellor no end of headaches given the astonishing year on year increase in expenditure on the ill – fated ESA programme which has become extremely expensive and utterly chaotic under IDS’s hopeless leadership.

ESA expenditure is up on earlier government estimates of £11 billion per annum by £2 billion a year to £13 billion a year according to the Centre for Economic Inclusion.  Employment & Support Allowance isn’t in isolation when it comes to Government’s serious problems in finding room for expenditure reduction; the overall welfare bill remains ‘more or less unchanged at £220 billion a year’ (Daily Telegraph).

It’s little wonder that leading disability activist groups DPAC will once again recommence peaceful protesting against WCA’s on the 2nd March in much the same way they did when Atos were in post, one can only hope they get the much needed media coverage they deserve in order to highlight the distinct possibility that more inhumane tests will lead to more tragic deaths of claimants shortly after being found fit for work during crude 45 minute tick box assessments.

The government’s response and the supporting statistics look only at new Employment & Support Allowance claims, completely omitting claimants subjected to repeat assessment and the longer term incapacity migration cases – it was combining these in to the programme which led to the chronic delays and up to 780,000 claimants awaiting an assessment. It’s nothing short of bizarre to exclude them from the equation.

Another key omission are the massive numbers of claimants who have claimed Employment & Support Allowance more than once, very often after being found fit for work; over 800,000 claimants have made a second or more claim in the revolving assessment process; it baffles me how neither the review or response addresses the real problems of this chaotic programme, instead it touches upon a lot of peripheral tinkering and an acknowledgement that large numbers of claimants with a mental health problem are being placed in the Support Group.  It’s hardly rocket science to work out why; the government does not want large numbers being found fit for work.  There is no gap in the labour market to swallow up large numbers of claimants who have been handed one of IDS’s highly damaging scrounger CV’s, employers won’t touch them; thank the Daily Mail et all for ruining their prospects of finding work.

Nor can government see the sense in cramming any more ‘going no where quickly’ claimants in to the now full to the brim Work Related Activity Group.  There’s a practical limit to how many CV’s claimants can be asked to write out in fruitless workshops.  It’s a problem of capacity, thousands may be referred or attached in to the Government’s Work Programme but the proof of the pudding is in the outcomes – just over 26,000 claimants have ended up with a job outcome (0.5%) after 4.8 million assessments since the ESA programme began; it’s a total waste of time and an even bigger waste of cash.

IDS is in deep trouble over the Employment & Support Programme, it’s set to cost far more than he budgeted for when putting together his ideologically focussed media forecasts appearing in Daily Mail headlines telling us that 75% of all claimants would transpire to be scroungers.  I recall the same paper telling us these reforms would whittle the number on the sick down to 600,000 claimants.  IDS is, of course, well aware that the number of claimants is stubbornly stuck on the 2.5 million figures which he ridiculously attributes to ‘parking’ under Labour over the preceding decade.  Perhaps he needs reminding that he’s been in post nearly half a decade now; when last in power it was his government which saw the sick count rocket from around three quarter of a million to the 2.5 million we’ve been stuck with ever since.

The review response fails to address the key problem with the Work Capability Assessment; it simply doesn’t work.

Measures 1 to 6 of the response are connected with the disputes process, this is only deployed once the assessment has, in the eyes of the claimant ‘gone wrong’, it’s hard to see how this can relate to an improvement in the assessment itself.

Measure 7 relates to a semi-structured interview process – it sounds almost half a job and hardly inspires confidence in it being a worthwhile solution.

9 to 11 are purely reactive to IDS’s perception that too many claimants are now languishing in the Support Group, it reads as though he thinks the DWP’s own decision – makers can’t follow the rules which he says have been improved and are now making the wretched process better.   Perversely, large numbers in Support was once heralded as the sign of improvement, now they’ve realised the cost they’ve relabelled it a failure.  Measures 12 onwards offer limited glimmers of hope, it’s just a shame it will never go beyond the obvious window dressing.

Be under no illusion, operation Maximus will be no better than Atos – the difference will be the distinct lack of publicity given to how many are cruelly subjected to the process; the media is bored of it as a topic and sadly the public no longer care.

Here’s a quick run down on the recommendations and the Government’s response, none of which will make the slightest difference to the disastrous assessment and reassessment of thousands of sick claimants in a regime which is well and truly broken beyond any hope of repair.

Recommendation 1

Material changes to the WCA should be fully considered in advance by both policy officials and
operational staff to ensure that policy intent and practical considerations are harmonised.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 2

Use of 360° feedback and its impact on driving up the quality of decision making at all stages of the
WCA process should be monitored over time and trends reported to the appropriate level to ensure
that training needs are met and unintended behaviours are addressed. This work should be seen in
parallel to feedback received from Tribunal services.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 3

The Explanation Call is removed from the mandatory reconsideration process, and that information
on the points of contention are collated and included in the referral to dispute resolution teams where

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 4

Options for displaying a geographical telephone number when making a Reconsideration Call should
be explored. Additionally, SMS messaging or an appropriate alternative method should be used
to provide advance notice in all instances. As with face-to-face assessments, requests to have a
supporting representative on the call should be accommodated where possible.

The Government will consider the recommendation of a geographical telephone number further, will
use SMS messaging where thought appropriate and accepts the recommendation on accommodating
a representative.

Recommendation 5

The Department review its geographical allocation of mandatory reconsideration casework taking
account of both perception issues and practical considerations for avoiding unnecessary delays.

The Government is unable to accept this recommendation.

Recommendation 6

The Department give specific consideration to how it improves the overall perceptions of the
mandatory reconsideration process. This should include publishing target turnaround times and being
clear on the reasons behind ceasing payment of the assessment rate of ESA.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 7

Further work to develop and implement a semi-structured interview should continue. This should be
developed in conjunction with a small number of representative groups. Particular attention should
be paid to interview practices for those with mental health conditions, learning disabilities and
autism, and this should be reflected in the guidance and training developed.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 8

The Department investigates the substantial increase in the proportion of Support Group outcomes as
a matter of urgency to determine whether the WCA is being applied correctly

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 9

The use of Regulation 35(2)(b) should be subject to close scrutiny with a particular focus on decisions
made on a papers only basis.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 10

The drivers for the high rate of young people (16-24) being assigned to the Support Group should be
examined not only to ensure that benefit decisions are correct but also to help provide appropriate

Recommendation 11

The Department bundles future necessary changes into packages delivered no more than bi-annually
to provide greater stability and avoid the perception of constant change to the WCA.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 12

The Department reviews the mechanisms in place for monitoring levels of understanding amongst
staff involved in the ESA process and consider appropriate means of following up this training to
ensure levels of knowledge and understanding remain high.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 13

The Department works with the Provider to improve communications sent in advance of an individual
attending a WCA and ensure that it explains the nature of the WCA, including a description of what
they can expect when they attend.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 14

The Department review its portfolio of alternate formats with specific reference to the use of Easy
Read and then prioritise provision by need to create as many forms as is reasonably practicable.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 16

The Department examines its work flow system, which appears to introduce an inevitable bias
towards granting higher benefit levels, to ensure that the policy intent is being met.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 17

The Department should explore ways and options of improved information between DWP
assessments, including Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance, Industrial
Injuries Disablement Benefit, Fit for Work and the Work Capability Assessment.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 18

The Department should work with the Department of Health and other appropriate government
departments to explore how DWP can make use of the WCA and the evidence gathered to ensure
individuals are sign posted to appropriate support.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 19

Use of the term ‘prognosis period’ should be discouraged and documentation should be amended

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 20

The Department should review its policy and processes around applying short re-referral periods in
the Support Group, particularly for young people with mental health problems, and for longer referral
periods in the WRAG.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 21

The Department should work with the Department for Education and the devolved administrations to
develop improved mechanisms for providing information about the world of work, including the WCA,
to those with learning disabilities at the point of leaving education.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 22

The Department reviews its provision of alternate formats of communication with a view to adopting
Easy Read wherever practicable.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 23

The Department reviews the training given to its own staff and those of the Provider in relation to
learning disabilities to ensure that the risk of overstatement of capability is fully understood.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 24

The Department ensures that it seeks the most appropriate evidence for people with learning
disabilities, including Hospital Passports and care or support plans. The Department should consider
options in each case rather than defaulting to a GP report.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 25

The Department should continue its good work with the MOD to ensure that suitable and sufficient
evidence can be accessed as simply and speedily for ex-Service personnel who make an application
for ESA.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 26

The Department should work with the DH to ensure that suitable and sufficient evidence can be
accessed as simply and speedily as possible for long stay hospital patients who make an application
for ESA or require reassessment.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 27

The Department should review its practice of routinely repeating the WCA for people liberated from
prison who were in receipt of ESA with a reassessment period that is still extant on release.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Recommendation 28

The Department should work with the MOJ to ensure that suitable and sufficient evidence can be
accessed as simply and speedily as possible for people leaving prison who make an application for
ESA or require reassessment.

The Government accepts this recommendation.

Year 2, Recommendation 8

DWP consider ways of sharing outcomes of the WCA with Work Programme providers to ensure a
smoother claimant journey.

Year 2, Recommendation 7

As and when changes to the descriptors are made, DWP and other relevant experts should monitor
the impact of these changes to ensure both that they are working and that they are not causing any
unintended consequences.

Recommendation 1

Sharing information from the WCA on capability for work with Work Programme Providers should be
addressed as a priority.
[Note: this links to Year 2 Recommendation 8.]

Recommendation 32

Consideration is given to a new reassessment period extending to five years in the Support Group for
people who have very severe incapacity resulting from brain disorders that are degenerative or which
will not realistically improve.

(back to top)

Supporting Statistics behind ‘Work Capability Assessments – the facts’ infographic

(Thanks go once again to Nick Dilworth – &

Between 28th October 2008 and March 2014, 4,799,800 Work Capability Assessments were conducted out of which 1,362,900 were repeated assessments and 1,296,500 were related to those being migrated from pre-existing incapacity benefits.

Between the roll out of the Work Programme in June 2011 to September 2014, out of a total 367,500 ‘Job Outcomes’, 78,480 related to claimants having a disability indicator (mostly on Jobseeker’s Allowance). Of those on incapacity related benefits including Employment & Support Allowance 26,670 achieved a job outcome of at least 3 months; of which 6,160 had a disability indicator. (see figures below)

Screenshot from 2015-03-01 21:40:12

Between April 2009 and March 2014, 1,065,929 appeals against Employment & Support Allowance decisions have been received by Her Majesties’ Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

  ESA Appeals received at HMCTS













Success rate for these years at cleared hearings are as follows: (average 40%)











The number of formal appeals to HMCTS has decreased due the introduction of the DWP’s ‘Mandatory Reconsideration before Appeal’ process in October 2013. However, it is known from recent DWP statistics that 173,500 mandatory reconsiderations (MR) were carried out between October 28th 2013 and October 2014. The DWP has not published the outcomes to these:

A recent FOI request responded to by the DWP shows that between October 28th 2013 and October 2014, a total of 590, 896 Work Capability Assessments were carried out with 374,000 (63%) being placed in the Support Group, 121,896 (21%) in the Work Related Activity Group, and 95,000 (16%) being found Fit for Work. It is of concern that these figures are not being made freely available.

ESA Mandatory Reconsideration & Statistics released by DWP via FOI request.



Support Group FOI

Fit for Work FIO

WCA’s Total FOI






























































FOI request:

Work Capability Assessment Statistics Oct 2013 – Oct 2014

854,630 ESA reclaims recorded at on-flow.

The above figures are in marked contrast to those made publicly available by the DWP in their Work Capability Outcome Statistics which they state are only available to March 2014:

  WRAG Group Support Group Fit for Work All WCA totals



































A significantly higher number of assessments are revealed in the recent ad – hoc statistical release which are not in the widely used Work Capability Assessments Outcome statistics. The ad – hoc release showing 590,896 as the total number of assessments for the period 28th October 2013 to June 2014 compared with 123,000 for the period October 2013 to March 2014.

The WCA outcome statistics are sourced here: (Latest release to September 2014)

The claimant count figures are sourced here to May 2014 with limited working age to August 2014:

The £11 billion per year costing for ESA comes from the following government impact assessment (Rationale for intervention “Annual expenditure on ESA and incapacity benefits is forecast to be in the region of £11bn in 2014/15”) – 20/04/2011

The £13 billion per year cost estimate of ESA by the Centre for Financial Inclusion is sourced here (“Employment and Support Allowance – approx £13 billion”) March 2014.


(back to top)

 Posted by at 20:16
Feb 262015

Who 2 Vote 4 Logo[By Mark Harrison, CEO Equal Lives]

Accessible Britain Challenge a Sick Joke

In September last year Mark Harper, Minister for Disabled People launched the Accessible Britain Challenge.  He did this 4 months after his Department had committed to closing the inaccessible disability assessment centre in Norwich and re-locating to suitable premises.  That centre is still open, still inaccessible and is still turning away disabled people 8 months after the decision to close it was made.

The Department for Work and Pensions publicity states:

The Accessible Britain Challenge encourages communities to be inclusive and accessible. That means working with disabled people to remove the barriers that stop them participating fully in their community.

Far from working with disabled people Mr Harper has ignored us and refused to enter into a dialogue or even answer our letters.

The cheery, welcoming  frontage of the St Mary's inaccessible disability assessment centre in Norwich.

The cheery, welcoming sight that enhances the customer experience of visitors to  Maximus’  inaccessible disability assessment centre in Norwich.

What makes it more perverse is that a new provider Maximus, an American outsourcing firm takes over the multi million pound Work Capability Assessment (WCA) contract from Atos next Monday and will continue to operate from St Mary’s House, 3 years after the DWP was made aware of the access issues.

Disabled campaigners and our supporters will be demonstrating between 12.30 – 1.30pm on Monday 2nd March outside St Mary’s House against this injustice.

Mark Harrison, CEO of Equal Lives said “This shows that the Accessible Britain Challenge is just a publicity stunt.  We have been campaigning for 3 years outside St Mary’s House.  They are even presenting awards in conjunction with the British Institute for Facilities Management and one of the categories is ‘innovative use of buildings, spaces and places’.  The winners are to be announced on 15 March.  I am sure the irony of this is not lost on the thousands of disabled people who have been forced to travel hundreds of miles for their assessments because the DWP won’t lease suitable premises.”

It also demonstrates the contempt this Government has for disabled people.  How can you appoint a new provider for the hated assessments and force them to use an inaccessible building which the DWP leases through another private sector provider Telereal Trillium?  This clearly demonstrated that we are not all in this together.  There is one rule for disabled people and another for the private sector, bankers and Ministers who see themselves as being unaccountable and above the law”.

About Equal Lives

Equal Lives is a user-led human rights organisation supporting all disabled people in Norfolk. It was formed in 1996 by groups of disabled people in Norfolk. The organisation is led by a Board of Trustees all of whom are disabled people and elected by and from its membership.

 Posted by at 13:06
Feb 152015

Reblogged from Kate Belgrave, with thanks.

This fits in nicely with David Cameron’s “let’s smack a few more people on benefits around and not talk about corporate tax-dodging theme:”

Here is a letter received very recently from a DWP “work coach” by Sean* (name changed), a Northamptonshire man who I’ve known and written about for several years. He has Asperger’s and severe depression.

Here is a letter received very recently from a DWP “work coach” by Sean* (name changed), a Northamptonshire man who I’ve known and written about for several years. He has Asperger’s and severe depression.

Sean finds day-to-day life very difficult to handle (he struggles to leave his house a lot of the time). He actually finds day-to-day life so challenging that even Atos agreed that he shouldn’t have to work. After a face-to-face assessment for his WCA about two years ago (I attended that assessment with him), Atos placed him in the support group for Employment and Support Allowance. As many of you will know, people in the ESA support group are neither required to work, nor to look for work. That’s the whole point of the support group. It’s an acknowledgement (a grudging one, I suspect) by the system as we have it that some people simply aren’t in a position take a job. From Benefits and Work: “the ESA support group is for claimants who the DWP consider to have such severe health problems that there is no current prospect of their being able to undertake work or work-related activities.” Once you’re in the support group, that should be the end of that, at least until your next assessment.

But here is this letter all the same. Disturbing reports of other people in the ESA support group getting letters like this, or calls to attend work-focused interviews, now abound. Sean received this letter out of nowhere and it scared the hell out of him. I imagine that scaring the hell out of him was at least in part the point of the exercise. The DWP doesn’t like people with mental health conditions to feel too secure.

And they don’t. As you can read for yourself, this DWP letter calls Sean to an interview this week to talk about “returning to work” or “starting a new job,” how to “find the right job” and how Sean’s benefits might be affected if he did go to work (even though the government’s assessor has said that he can’t). Even more incredibly, the invitation calls Sean to a group information session. This suggests to me that whoever sent it never read Sean’s file, or even glanced at it. A group session? Sean finds groups of people so challenging that he can barely bring himself to leave the house a lot of the time. He said he couldn’t handle the idea of travelling across town to sit in a room with complete strangers to discuss very personal details.

That is one of the many reasons why the letter is crass in the extreme. There’s a flimsy attempt in it to acknowledge that Sean is not actually obliged to attend the meeting (“not attending will not affect your [benefit] payment,” etc), but the real message is loud and clear.

It was certainly loud and clear as far as Sean was concerned. The message he took from it was that even when the government’s own notoriously harsh medical assessors have agreed that a person can’t work, the government is very much of the opinion that the person can work – and should be pushed to work, more to the point. “Your attendance at this session is voluntary….we nevertheless would like you to consider attending this session,” the letter reads. The threat here is discernible. If anyone who has paid me over the years said “you don’t have to attend this meeting, but I’d like you to,” I’d know exactly what they meant. Sean’s wife Maggie* (named changed) told me the threat became even more explicit when she rang the DWP to say that Sean would not attend the meeting (Maggie makes a lot calls on Sean’s behalf, because he doesn’t like to talk with officials, or on the phone. Maggie herself has a severe mental health condition. She has a schizophrenia diagnoses and has spent a lot of time in hospital). Maggie said that when she called, the DWP said it would note Sean’s non-attendance “this time”- the implication being that he would be asked to attend again. Maggie said she told the DWP that Sean would never attend such a session. She said that the DWP told her not to say Never. Ahem. Neither Sean nor Maggie think they’ve heard the last of this. I doubt they have either.

I have been thinking about all of this as Cameron has tried to divert us from stories about his tax-dodging mates with stories about people with drug problems who are on benefits. It’s all very interesting, you know. I have long believed that this government and others like it want to eliminate all disability benefits. They want people to believe that everyone can work and always work if they’re given enough of a shove. I think this government particularly wants everyone to believe that people with mental health problems are dragging the chain on purpose – that all anyone with a condition like severe depression needs is a nice cup of tea and a gentle (and then less gentle) kick in the pants to get going. The fact that someone with a severe mental health condition receives the sort of letter you see above tells you everything you need to know about the direction we’re travelling in. Atos was hired to ram home the entirely baseless theory that a lot of sick and disabled people on benefits were fit for work. The next stage will be about ramming home the entirely baseless theory that all sick and disabled people on benefits are fit for work.

I’d expect a government that wanted to push that idea would hire an aggressive and voracious welfare-to-work scheme provider to assess people’s fitness for work from this point on – you know, a company that exist to push the welfare-to-work concept (rather than the welfare-because-people-need-it concept) in exchange for heaps of public dosh. Oh wait. It has.

DPAC are investigating instances where people in the support group are being sent letters by the DWP

We are asking people to contact us if you are in the ESA Support Group and have been contacted by your Jobcentre to attend an interview, or group training session. Please email us at and we will get back to you.

We will never disclose your name or personal information without your permission, but we may use your case (after your name and all personal details have been securely removed) to campaign against this. If you say no to this, we will not use the information in any way, and your information will still help us to understand what is happening.


 Posted by at 17:29
Jan 152015

Reblogged from Johnny Void, with thanks

Tweet posted by Mario Dunn Maximus Marketing Manager Called The NUS Student Wankers And Described A Guardian Contributor As Cretinous

Believe it or not the above tweet referring to the NUS as student wankers was posted by Mario Dunn, the Communications & Marketing Director for Maximus – the company taking over from Atos to carry out the despised assessments for sickness and disability benefits.

Dunn is a former special advisor to the Labour Party who worked at the Department of Health between 2005-2010.  Now he is responsible for “all aspects of communications, stakeholder engagement, marketing and brand management” for Maximus but still has the time to have tantrums on twitter – usually in defence of the crimes of the Israeli government.  He is also passionate in his support of Tony Blair, calling a piece which mildy criticised the former Prime Minister ‘cretinous’.  His choice of language perhaps reveals the truth about attitudes towards disabled people at Maximus.

Dunn will be working with Bill Gunnyeon the former DWP chief medical adviser who it was revealed this week will also now be working for Maximus.  He will join former Atos medical director Professor Michael O’Donnell who joined Maximus last year and who previously worked for UNUM, the insurance company who boasted about ‘driving government thinking’ on reforms to sickness and disability benefits.

Maximus have claimed they will be different to Atos.  So far they look exactly the fucking same.

Join the Day of Action Against Maximus on March 2nd – please spread the word – facebook page now up.

Maximus Day of Action 2nd March A5 leaflet front and back 06

 Posted by at 14:48
Jan 122015

Shown below is a video clip of Shadow Minister for Disabled People Kate Green speaking at the SERTUC disabled workers’ network meeting 30 October 2014, filmed and passed to us by Kate Belgrave

In this clip Kate is saying (from 1.23 in the video)  “We are going to make sure that the work capability assessment is returned to its original purpose of being the first step in the process to diagnose and identify what sort of support somebody who could work at some point would need to have in order to enable them work, and so we will give every single person who goes through the work capability assessment, at the end of their assessment, a statement of how their condition or impairment impacts on their capacity to work. That will refocus the assessment into the right mindset, how to situate (? unclear) your capability for work. It will also, we hope, empower the individual, because that statement will be yours to take to your employer or your work programme provider or training provider and say ‘this is is what I have to contend with. How can we work together to build the support that I need.'”

Our very serious questions to Kate Green are:

  1. Will this be the policy of any incoming Labour Government?
  2. There is no recognition in this statements that people in the Support Group are not able to work, as judged by the already harsh WCA regime, do you really mean that the support group no longer has any meaning?
  3. When you say “everybody going through a Work Capability Assessment”, do you mean this to include (among others):
    1. Claimants with terminal conditions who do not have long left to live
    2. Claimants with severe mental health conditions who are at risk of suicide, or harming themselves or others
    3. Claimants with severe learning difficulties or cognitive impairments
    4. Claimants with high support needs, who will no longer receive ILF funding?
  4. Does Labour intend that the support group will no longer exist for people judged unable to work?

We are extremely concerned about this statement and we call on Kate Green to clarify what these words mean and respond to our questions listed above.

We will publish in full her response on this blog


 Posted by at 11:16
Jan 032015

Different forms of Government Propaganda began and ended the year. We saw delays, backlogs, more cuts, more campaigns and direct actions. We reproduce some of the DPAC actions, research and call outs from 2014. Highlights included the Westminster Abbey Occupation against the closure of ILF as part of the #saveilf campaign, lowlights included the court case that arrived at the decision that Penning had taken appropriate process into account by saying that ILF users could be entitled to less under local authorities. Chaos with the DWP, PIP, ESA was compounded by misinformation, dodgy stats , backlogs and increasing sanctions. The brilliant Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts achieved the abolition of ‘care’ charges by their local authority-proving it can be done. Esther McVey was awarded Scrooge of the year. DPAC was threatened with legal action for our support of the Anthony Kletzander campaign -in response we increased the campaign, and the relationship in the propaganda against disabled people between the DWP and the Mail was finally exposed

News that the UNCRPD Committee had initiated its first ever inquiry into grave and systematic violations of the UN Convention against the UK identified how far our disability rights and independent living had been eroded by the Coalition-although the Mail didnt seem to like it much

Our constant court cases against the DWP continued, and we have more lined up for this year too- yes, we could be talking to you Motability!

We look forward to 2015 and a change in the regime that has seen the poor grow poorer, while the richest grew richer. A year in which we launch Who2vote4? and the DPAC revenge tour. We will continue to fight for #saveilf with an event on 6th Jan at the House of Commons and an online twitter event.

For an excellent review of the fight against cuts from 2010-2014 please download From Cuts to Resistance and if you want a count down to the election , then the DPAC downloadable calender can help

Here’s to a better year in 2015 with thanks to all our members and supporters. Keep up with news in 2015 by subscribing to posts through our website or follow us on twitter @Dis_ppl_protest

Some selected actions of DPAC in 2014

January saw the posting of a call for those who were waiting for PIP due to backlogs. This post has received over 40,000 views,shares and many comments. The situation has now been described as a backlog that , at the current rate , could take 42 years to clear. For those claiming ‘reforms’ are working have a look to see that they are not: and let’s not forget the backlog in ESA either-in short complete chaos for disabled people.

In ‘Austerity Street: the real impacts’ we reproduced some of the stories we had received from those left without cash and homes via sanctions, delays and backlogs. This was in response to Love Production’s poverty porn , Benefits Street, part of the media’s continued demonization regime -the campaign incorporated a twitter fest against the format of biased programming. We supported our partners in Canada Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (SCAP) and Ontario Coalition Aginst Poverty (OCAP). In an international campaign against increasing homelessness. Austerity is global. We supported Boycott workfare against CAPITA cashing in on poverty.

Through the excellent work of Nick Dilworth we exposed more BBC media double dealing and the fact that they weren’t publicizing the 88% success rates of those claiming ESA and asked ‘Are the DWP failing apart at every level? When a freedom of information response incorrectly claimed that PIP was subjected to sanctions. In another they claimed that the cap would be cut for those without children, both were incorrect. With Inclusion London we campaigned against the Care Act’s exclusion of ‘independent living’ and DPAC also  joined Hands off London Transport against ticket office closures, as well as regional Rail protests

February We joined  the many direct actions against the removal of legal aid. Raquel Rolnik ‘s report on the bedroom tax is published and recommends immediate suspension of the bedroom tax. The Government’s response is to accuse her of giving sacrifices to Marx and telling her to ‘sort out her own country’. We republish the excellent ‘Why the rise of UKIP is dangerous for disabled people’ and receive the usual abuse from Kippers proving the point. DPAC, Black Triangle and Wow publish a joint statement on Atos exit strategy , calling again for an end to the WCA. We expose how 9 out of 10 sanctions are dismissed when challenged

March More direct actions against proposed cuts in legal aid for judicial review.We publish ‘Punching Holes in Austerity’ an insightful analysis of DPAC and direct actions. DPAC supports #stopchanges2A2W against punitive changes in Access to Work. We publish an update on Anthony Kletzander and questions for HSE in Ireland with ENIL , a story of human rights abuse in Dublin, Ireland, a stand that we would later find invoked a threat of legal action against one of our co-founders.

DPAC joins protests against DWP and ATOS country wide. Protests that were reminiscent of the very first DPAC protests against Atos carried out by DPAC from 2011 onwards, culminating in the 2012 DPAC Atos games that saw Atos tarnished forever. DPAC leads direct actions and online protests against the despised disability Con-fident, leading to the highest number of tweets and retweets ever, exposing the scheme as no more than a Government gloss while they were cutting access to work and removing the means for disabled people to work. We produce a critical analysis of Pennings impact assessment regarding ILF. We reproduce the piece by John Pring asking ‘Where was your MP during the Wow Debate’

April The brilliant Ellen Clifford travels to Canada to embark on a successful speaking tour with raise the rates. We hold a well attended DPAC Grassroots Fightback conference. DPAC, Inclusion London, Equal Lives and the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People promote the #saveilf postcard campaignTop Corrie stars support the postcard campaign to #saveilf.  DPAC supports Lifeworks and protests against cuts to mental health support. DPAC gives its response to Labour on reform of WCA

 May DPAC releases its research documents for download. DPAC and ILF users block the DWP in protest. We learn that disabled students allowances are now under threat of cuts. DPAC publishes a powerful piece by one of our readers that sums up many peoples’ feelings: ‘I’ll never forgive or forget what this Government has done to me and thousands of others‘. We pay homage to the strength of Quiet Riot, celebrate the #dpactour and the success of the Freedom Riders.

June The Independent Living Fund’s Birthday protest happens in June with lots of action outside the DWP. We see JSA benefit sanctions sky rocket under the coalition Government. More actions happen to fight the bedroom tax.

We publish a piece by Angela 28 on how ‘care’ support has been threatened and why that threatens independent living and rights– legal representation was found for many people, but we were aware that this was happening to many more people through emails to dpac mail. Unlike some organisations we attempt to challenge these instances and reject the rhetoric that there is more ‘choice and control’ for disabled people.

At the end of June DPAC with UKUNCUT, and Occupy carry out a daring occupation of Westminster Abbey , after months of planning to highlight the #saveilf campaign. There were 3 police to every protester , and while we had no support from the dear old church , messages of support and publicity poured in

 July We publish a joint statement in response to the Work and Pensions Committee on the WCA from DPAC, Black Triangle, the Mental Health Resistance Network, Pats petition, Wow and New Approach in which we again say the WCA should be scrapped.

An ILF user makes a plea to Disability Rights UK (DRUK) on ILF after he was denied the right to speak at their independent living conference. DRUK did not feel the need to offer any response.  In Disability Rights UK : independent Living or new visions in Neo-Liberalism we ask why the DRUK ‘independent living ‘ conference was sponsored by an organisation running institutions, segregated schooling and ‘hospitals for those with mental health issues. We also launched a highly successful twitter campaign asking the same questions, again DRUK did not feel they owed disabled people any response to this outrage.

DPAC highlights more chaos at the DWP on appeals and sanctions. John McDonnell launches an Early Day Motion to #saveilf. Positive updates and actions on the WCA court case regarding mental health claimants by the Mental Health Resistance Network. We ask that people write to IDS to raise issues happening regarding mental health.

August Rethink calls people with mental health issues a ‘disease burden’ Mental Health Resistance Network respond to the outrage. We call for a stop to discrimination for those transferring from DLA to PIP who do not get backdated paymentsDPAC continues to support anti-fracking protests with Reclaim the power.

We republish the excellent Nick Dilworth’s piece on how the media are ignoring what’s happening to disabled people

ILF user John Kelly speaks to BBC on the impacts of the potential loss of ILF. We ask what happens when ILF funds are not ring fenced to local authorities

September sees a national day of Protest against sanctions, bedroom tax and benefit caps.

The fantastic Brian Hilton produces a set of pics for party conference season on #saveilf. DPAC crash the Tory Party Conference via a successful tweet attack and in person. We do the same to Labour.

We publish The Great Farago: UKIP sleight of hand and receive more abuse from Kippers, Richard Howitt Labour MEP quotes the piece and receives even more abuse.

New short film launched with the Daily Mirror on ILF.

The first inkling that the DWP are wrongly asking those in the ESA support group to attend work focused interviews comes to our notice.

DPAC is threatened with legal action for supporting Anthony Kletzander and publicising the abuse of his human rights in Ireland, our response is to publish an interview with Anthony’s parents  on the injustice Anthony and his family have endured.

October We reblog the excellent Johnny Void piece on the boss of Maximus

We publish an open letter to Freud who declared that disabled people can work for less than minimum wage. DPAC and Occupy pay another visit to the DWP Caxton House building for ‘Freud must go!’ protest

In Secrets and Lies :maximus the new leader of the inhumans we ask why Disability Rights UK have agreed to a) be part of the Maximus testing process on the WCA and b) why they’ve teamed up with Unum and other insurance companies to develop a TV program showing how much better off disabled people will be if they take out private insurance- with user-led disability organisations like these we dont need enemies.

ILF users return to court to challenge the DWP on ILF. A successful #saveilf vigil happens with road blocks, many messages of support and some great pics.

Welfare assistance fund is next under threat of closure. Campaign to save it is launched.

November The Final Litchfield Review shows that the WCA should be scrapped.

One of our favourite reports of the year : IDS is chased around a building to drown out shouts of murderer at Ipswich- congratulations to the local dpac group for that one!

We ask people to come forward to launch a legal challenge on cuts to the disabled student allowance

£86 million goes missing from Pudsley’s children in need account BBC to blame for mislaying -complainants are actually advised to write to Pudsley via his BBC email

DWP increase attacks on disabled benefit recipients with claims they can harress them off benefits. We put out an urgent call-out

Work Providers A4E are exposed again in relation to ESA and workfare. The Rev Paul Nicolson wins in court against council tax. Class War’s continuing protests against ‘poor doors’ get to the authorities who make arrests- and Boris is burnt. Meanwhile DPAC discovers Motability’s sneaky backdoor changes to individuals needing to be in work to qualify for support

December ILF users lose court case on ILF but its not over.

DPAC launches an Open letter to Ed, Kate and Rachel on ILF– we’re still waiting for a response

Hammersmith and Fulham abolish home ‘care’ charges, showing it can be done. Congratulations for a great campaign to the excellent Kevin Caulfield and Debbie Domb and all at Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition against Cuts

Esther McVey is named scrooge of the year, which we though was a little too kind to the creature

Unsurprisingly the Work and Pensions report slammed the Government ‘mismanagament of Access to Work – the stop the changes to Access to Work campaign continues.

Questions are asked on the Government costs in fighting against disabled peoples’equality

The link between the DWP and the Mail propaganda is finally nailed and exposed as the DWP is caught out

Nov 292014

Dr Litchfield has produced the 5th and final Statutory WCA Review. This Review is by far the most interesting and revealing.

  • Lichfield says WCA not fit for purpose

  • WCA Test shown not to be accurate

  • Different ESA Objectives incompatible with each other

  • Mandatory Reconsiderations Not effective say DWP staff.

  • ESA payments should continue during Mandatory Reconsideration

  • Problems with the Assessment Backlog

  • Too many 16-24 year olds being written off by ESA

  • Use of regulation 35 is successful

  • WCA must be scrapped.


According to Dr Litchfield, the WCA has exhausted its usefulness, but it should not be replaced immediately as it needs to be ‘embedded’ first to give time for a new system of assessment to be devised. After 5 years of recommendations, mainly aimed at improving the ‘claimant journey’ rather than the test accuracy, Dr Litchfield does not believe the current test can be improved further, but nor does he believe that it fulfills its intended purpose, which was to determine benefit eligibility on the basis of capability for work. ‘There must be clarity of purpose – determining benefit eligibility and supporting employment outcomes may not be compatible objectives’. It was however the basis on which the WCA was introduced.


There is also a long technical section devoted to the WCA Evidence Based Review. This review has its limitations which are well explained by Dr Litchfield, but it also highlights a very important point: when compared with another means of testing capability for work, the WCA performed much better than the alternative test which was proposed. But when it comes to assessing lack of capability for work, the WCA performance is well below average. ‘When measuring the specificity of the two assessments, the WCA performed better, scoring 87% in comparison to 63% for the 19-activity AA. However, when considering sensitivity, the AA was found to perform better, scoring 72% in comparison to 44%. High specificity would indicate a good capacity to identify those who are able to work while high sensitivity would reflect a good capacity to identify those with limited capability for work’. What this means is that the WCA is good at identifying people fit for work, but ineffective (44%) at identifying people who cannot work. Considering the consequences of being found fit for work when somebody is not, the conservative approach (which in this case does not mean the Tory approach) would have been to allow a few people fit for work to claim ESA rather than to deprive people unable to work of any income. This was not the approach taken, with the all too familiar consequences, and Dr Litchfield does not comment on this.


There is also a section on Mandatory Reconsiderations. Not much can be said about these as DWP has not produced any figures, statistics or indications of how MRs are performing, although they were introduced over a year ago, but it seems that ‘half DWP staff of dispute resolution Decision Makers perceived the process to be effective, with even fewer original Decision Makers sharing the view’. In other terms, less than 50 % of DWP staff perceive the process to be effective which is very worrying. DWP staff as a whole seem to have a better perception of the WCA process than claimants, and the fact that less than half of DWP staff perceive the Mandatory Reconsideration process to be effective would indicate an even lower level of satisfaction among claimants.

In addition, it seems that most DWP staff dealing with Mandatory Reconsiderations are the same people who previously dealt with the now abolished Social Fund. It is all credit to DWP not to have made these staff redundant, but what it means is DWP ‘dispute resolution teams’ dealing with Mandatory Reconsiderations are not ‘located in the areas that they serve, case files have to be requested from other offices and posted across the UK using secure postal services’. Which means more delays, and which may partly or entirely account for DWPs failure to produce any figures on waiting times, but anecdoctal evidence shows that some claimants have waited more than 6 months for their Mandatory Reconsideration outcome, without income. Dr Litchfield does highlight this issue with Mandatory Reconsiderations, although it is outside his terms of reference, by saying “Claiming JSA while undergoing mandatory reconsideration can also be problematic, as people can be informed by Jobcentre staff that they are too unwell to start a claim. This can in turn leave people without support at a time when they need it most. Given a JSA payment is the same as the ESA assessment rate, the DWP should explore whether the ESA assessment payment could be continued through mandatoryreconsideration as it is through the appeals process.” This point was raised by the W&P Committee for DWP to consider, but in the Government’s latest response to the Committee published yesterday, this recommendation was rejected, and it is not part of Dr Litchfield’s recommendations as this is outside the scope of his review.


It is impossible to ignore the WCA reviewers spending time on social media to analyse the perceptions of the WCA on Twitter. The findings were that ‘On average, around 11% were categorised as ‘negative’, compared to only 3% ‘positive’. The remaining 86% were recorded as neutral’. Only 11% negative? For Dr Litchfield, the main reason for these negative perceptions of the WCA process is ‘The regular changes to the assessment would certainly appear to influence negative perceptions. Not only do they keep the WCA in the public eye but each change may reinforce the view that the assessment is flawed’. Another point he makes is that ‘Any assessment should not only be fair but be perceived to be fair’, but for Dr Litchfield, the issue seems to be with failures to communicate properly about the process or the outcomes rather than with inherent flaws to the test or to the environment within which the test is performed.


Dr Litchfield then looks at the trends over time and highlights from October 2013 a substantial increase in the number of claimants placed in the Support Group, which he partly explains by the backlog and the way it was cleared. ‘This spike is likely to be a feature of the way in which the WCA backlog was addressed by the Department and the Provider’. This confirms what had always been suspected until now, that in order to clear the backlog, DWP and Atos prioritised the worst cases which could be cleared through paper based reviews, because it is much quicker, leading to a disproportionate number of claimants being placed in the Support Group.

But this is not enough to explain the spike and anomalies which show a deviation from the initial intent of the WCA, namely the disproportionate number of young people (16-24) with mental health conditions being placed in the Support Group with sometimes a very short prognosis (a word Dr Litchfield intends to have banned from the WCA terminology). Looking closer at this trend, it seems that the main reason for it is the very widespread use of Regulation 35 (2) (b). ‘The main driver for the increase appears to be the use of Regulation 35 (2) (b), where an individual is considered to constitute a substantial risk of harm’. Also contrary to what was highlighted in the last review, there is also now a close concordance between the recommendations of HCP and Decision Makers in the application of Regulation 35 (2) (b) and ‘86% were attributed to risk of harm resulting from an identified mental health condition’. Dr Litchfield could not find any reasons behind the more widespread application of Regulation 35 (2) (b) and is asking DWP to investigate as a matter of urgency whether it is correctly applied. It is a shame that Dr Litchfield does not push the logic further by wondering why HP and Decision Makers are using this regulation more widely with this specific group, and that he did not look at the broader environment, but again that was not part of his brief. Dr Litchfield repeatedly uses the expression ‘unintended consequences’ in relation to changes applied to the WCA process over time. One limitation of this approach is that it ignores the impact of other changes outside the WCA process which could have made the WRAG a ‘toxic group’.


To conclude, although Dr Litchfield no longer thinks the test is fit for purpose, he recommends giving the WCA a period of stability because ‘it is by no means perfect but there is no better replacement that can be pulled off the shelf’. After 4 reviews saying that it was the right test, this is a poor consolation. There has been a glaring omission in all these reviews, but as it was not part of the Reviewer’s terms of reference, this is not surprising.

Ultimately, the raison d’être of the WCA was to determine which claimants were fit for work, and the litmus test is the number of people found fit for work who have actually found a job. That has never been monitored by DWP and the only figures available are for ESA claimants with a short prognosis forced onto the Work Programme, with dismal results. That no alternative can be ‘pulled off the shelf’ is no justification for keeping a test which is unable to distinguish between claimants fit and unfit for work, which leaves them without income for lengthy periods, and which punishes people for being sick or disabled. Dr Litchfield’s last review confirms what claimants going through the process have been saying all along. The test has been improved as much as it could be, but it has not been made more accurate at identifying which claimants are fit or unfit to work.

We say:  The WCA should be scrapped and should be scrapped now.

 Posted by at 21:29
Nov 072014

DPAC received this email from someone who wanted everyone to know what was going on with ESA and work providers. We have had many similar emails, but we don’t publish unless the person is absolutely sure they are OK with us doing that. All names and dates have been changed to protect anonymity.

Here we see why we cant trust the DWP (again), yet also how disabled people are being used to make money for private contractors (again), and the continuing chaos of ESA (again). A4E hit the headlines a while ago for taking tax payers money in ways that constituted fraud-we see they are still playing this game and still being served with public money to persecute people that should be left alone . But the Coalition continue to focus on disabled people as the fraudulent people- When will the public see exactly what’s going on and how many lies this Government has produced to protect their wealthy corporate friends, while they destroy everyone else’s lives?

November 2013 Began 2nd year Wrag and from  lodged request for Mandatory Reconsideration of WCA conducted on paper by Atos and received appointment to Attend A4e for induction course in December

2014  After various changes to original appointment attended the induction course with an advisor which lasted 3 hrs.  At that time made her aware that I had day hospital appointment for pain management course every Thursday through until end of August 2014 and she stated that she wouldn’t interfere with any of hospital treatment.

Began Pain Management in April and 2 weeks into it received appointment for interview with new advisor.   Attended and was told that regardless of hospital appts  am mandated to attend any appts made.

From then on in addition to hospital on Thursdays I had to go to various appointments at A4e for courses and interviews with advisors.   Being barely able to walk and having extremely limited use of only one hand due to a very rare neurological condition, I needed to take a taxi to A4e offices 12 miles from home at a cost of £26 each time.   Also, as patient transport was not available at times to suit my hospital appointments I paid a driver mileage expenses of £14 every Thursday to take me to the hospital and back.   My consultant at hospital was aware of the pressure from A4e during my time on the pain programme which included 8 weeks pain psychology.

On one occasion I was to attend an A4e Inspire course.  I asked the advisor what this entailed and she told me it was about positive psychology to motivate people and that although doctors tell people they are ill, that’s seldom the actual case.  Having a long career in law, I was immediately alerted to the implications of this especially as the course I was on was subject to my declaration to seek no other psychological (coginitive behavioural) therapy elsewhere.   My consultant was less than impressed with this especially when research revealed that these sessions were run by A4e trainers who had acquired a “qualification” on the internet. However, in the event, the invitation to Inspire never materialised.

At my last face to face interview with the advisor at the beginning of July she made it clear to me that I might as well get on with looking for a job as the dwp “would get me in the end anyway” and a few days later I received 3 appointments to attend their offices within the next 10 days.   At that time the Decision Maker was in contact with me and I advised her of the problems all this had caused  ie that it had indeed interfered with the intense demands of the pain programme, homework for that etc and the need to learn and practise stress management and relaxation and also that the cost of travel to 3 of their appointments and 1 hospital apt  in a week was more than the ESA I was receiving. A couple of days later I was put in the Support Group backdated to November 2013.

Since that time A4e have continued to issue 24 hr warning texts for appointments the following day for various courses and work focused interviews, followed up by telephone calls from the advisor requesting reason for non attendance.  I explained to her the terms of the rules re Support Group but she had never heard of them and stated I was mandated until JCP told her otherwise.   In response I stated that I had the paperwork necessary to protect me from any sanctions and had no intention of attending on a voluntary basis.

This situation has subsisted now but, to date, I haven’t made an official complaint.  The fact that I’m aware of JCP making the same demands on other people leads me to believe a complaint would be fruitless.  I have however made my local MP aware of the situation. I’m now over 60 with a long career in admin, banking and law and HR behind me and also had other skills working weekends prior to leaving school so there is little any work provider could teach me, a point which the decision maker has agreed with.  In the circumstances, I believe that A4e are processing me still as a “voluntary” attender and claiming a fee from JCP accordingly as this will be most lucrative with me being in the group hardest to place.

Other Problems encountered at A4e:
At induction claimants are requested to bring their birth certificates.  If they do not have them or refuse to hand them over A4e merely orders an Extract themselves. Work Program Guidelines state that this is unnecessary for identification (in any case who would want to hijack anyone’s place on the WP !). I was born Scotland where everyone’s birth certificate contains full details including their mother’s maiden name and details of parents marriage etc.   These certificates are kept in the claimant’s folder at A4e together with all other information from the claimant and DWP ie Nat Ins No etc making this a prime target for identity theft and when pointed out to them the advisors appear to have no knowledge of Data Protection Act.  This is extremely concerning but it’s a case of No birth certificate = no benefits.

The premises at their office at Clinton are accessible only via a heavy glass place aluminium door into a block of offices and once in there  a heavy wooden door is pulled outwards.  Accordingly, invariably disabled people have to hang around outside until a non-disabled person comes along to let them in.    New claimants are not made aware of any fire safety and during a training session there can be 50-60 people in their office at a time.

It was plain from things said to me and demands made by the advisor and from hearing conversations about other people when I was there (an open plan office with absolutely no privacy) that the staff have absolutely no awareness nor requirement for reasonable adjustments and merely treat those in WRAG and Support Group the same as a non-disabled 16 year old.

The Work Providers Guidelines give A4e and other companies the opportunity to flout the law and to treat claimants however they wish  by allowing them to “encourage and help them obtain employment “by whatever means reasonable to their circumstances”.    Unfortunately, most claimants have absolutely no idea about their rights in such a situation.

I can only speak to what goes on in A4e but, given my experience of them, I would welcome an investigation in the practises of all work providers who have the power to sanction claimants who can’t or won’t jump through the hoops they set up.

 Posted by at 21:59
Oct 092014

It is disheartening to read Labour’s press release, “Labour Pledge New ‘Work Support Programme’ For Disabled Benefit Claimants”

That the DWP is wasting a lot of money, we already know that, although how the £8bn have been calculated is not explained by Labour. But the implication that some people should not be claiming disability benefits is the sign that the use of selective statistics for political purpose is not the prerogative of the Coalition. Like the following figures show, these variations happened under the Coalition and Labour.

What is shown here is the difference, month by month in the number of ESA +IB claimants, with the total in bold

What is shown here is the difference, month by month in the number of ESA +IB claimants, with the total in bold

But what is really disheartening is that Labour knows that:

  • The Work Capability Assessment is in the state of virtual collapse
  • There is a backlog of 700,000 ESA claimants in the Assessment phase

Which means that any figures produced between the beginning of the collapse of the WCA around July 2013 and now are likely to be untypical and should not be relied on.

Added to that, Labour is aware of the outcomes of the Evidence Based Review of the WCA, where it was identified that around 83% deemed fit for work would need “on average, two or three” adjustments; 50% would need flexible working hours; and 24% would need a support worker, and the panel recognised that these people were unlikely to get the support they needed. Where was Labour when this needed to be highlighted? Where was Labour when activists have repeatedly shown that very sick or even dying people were being found fit for work? That Labour is now using a very atypical figure to show that some people claiming disability benefits don’t deserve them is shameful. It is disabled people who have been short changed all these years, and it is disabled people who have been doing the job the opposition party should have done.

Extract from the Report by the Social Security Advisory Committee under Section 174(1) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 and the statement withdrawing the proposed regulations by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (March 2005):

“We would think it better that the Department should run the risk of possibly paying a few “undeserving” cases, rather than risking the virtual certainty of denying benefit to a few genuine cases.”

Here are some of the things we’ve said previously about the WCA, and we still stand by them:

“The WCA presumes that there are too many people on disability benefits because disabled people are too lazy or too comfortable living on benefits to work. It is founded in the idea that disabled people need to be harassed and hounded out of their comfortable life into finding work under the threat of loss of benefits.No one is comfortable living on benefits. Disabled people are no more lazy that the rest of the population. The real reason that there are so many people on benefits is that society does not include disabled people.We do not have the same access to education, transport, housing and jobs. Social attitudes ensure that disabled people in the workplace are seen as a problem, rather than an equal opportunity.And there are large numbers of disabled people who simply can not work. Why should they be harassed? Why should they be hounded?. Why should they have to live in fear?.We know, and this report confirms, that many people have wrongly been found “fit for work” when they can’t work. We also know and the UK courts have confirmed WCA discriminates against claimants with mental health impairments.

The Work and Pensions Committee report recommends “improvements” to make the system more workable and less harmful. This is pointless, because it would not make the WCA any less wrong or any more useful

We call once again on Labour to commit to scrapping the WCA and to address the real problems that disabled people on benefits face in society. ”

read more here –

“Labour should realise that disabled people are deeply distrustful of any Labour reform of a Work Capability Assessment system, which Labour introduced in the Welfare Act of 2007 with the stated aim of removing 1 million claimants from the benefit system [3].Our position has been and will be that the Work Capability Assessment is deeply flawed in its basic concept, not just in terms of the details of its delivery, and inclusion in the workplace for disabled people cannot simply be achieved by a ‘back to work’ test.A comprehensive and strategic plan of action is developed with disabled people and our organisations to tackle the discrimination and exclusion disabled people face in work and employment including: increasing quality and range of personalised support available to disabled people, strengthening disabled employees rights and tackling employer discrimination and poor practiceEconomic productivity must not be the only measure of people’s worth and value, volunteering offers as much value to society as paid employment. While we recognise that volunteering can offer additional skills, it should not be the default option for disabled people because of our exclusion from paid workThere must be policy and media recognition that there will always be disabled people who are unable or too ill to work. These individuals must be supported by a publically funded system. They should not be penalised or demonised as they are currently.

For true inclusion in the workplace for disabled people a wider approach is necessary including but not limited to:

• Will Labour commit to the restoration of Disabled Student’s Allowance,
• Will Labour commit to the restoration of the Independent Living Fund,
• Will Labour commit to the extension of Access to Work (AtW) to include unpaid voluntary positions,
• Will Labour commit to the reversal of the reduction of people who currently receive DLA, but will not receive PIP and also lose their Motability access,
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of the requirement for councils to produce equality schemes on employment and access
• Will Labour commit to the provision of accessible transport.
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of “day one” protection from unfair dismissal in employment law
• Will Labour commit to the provision of Employment Tribunals enforcing mandatory organisation-wide measures on preventing disability discrimination
• Will Labour commit to the provision that all government contracts, at a national, regional and local level, are only awarded to companies that are fulfilling measurable equality targets for the employment of disabled people

These currently are some of the barriers to inclusion in the workplace for disabled people, and they will not be fixed by simply amending the WCA. The issue must be seen within the context of the wider interconnected system of barriers in place. It must be seen in terms of what a large majority of disabled people have already identified as key problems.

In terms of inclusion we also need from Labour, a recognition that for many disabled people to be able to work there has to be a nationally transportable social care system with a guarantee that people would keep the same levels of funding wherever they needed to move to work.

We need recognition that there is an onus on government and employers to fully accept the spirit of the Equality Act 2010 [4] with its requirement to the opening of work opportunity to disabled people. Without this, no “fit for work test” aimed at cutting disability benefits will make any impact whatsoever on the numbers of disabled people who can attain and sustain employment.

We also need from Labour a stronger recognition that there are many disabled people who cannot enter the work place and should not have to live in fear of being pressured into doing so.”

Read more here:

 Posted by at 18:29
Sep 242014
by George Berger


This is a conceptual history and critique of the methods used in the United Kingdom to assess persons who are ill and in need of financial, moral and social support. I critique their foundations, as they have led to a system that claims to be evidence-based but is scientifically and philosophically so misguided that much harm to ill people has resulted.

Disabled people are at high risk for harm, as the complete assessment regime is perfectly suited to adversely affect them. A good way to see this is to begin with four statements that typify successive stages in the institutionalisation of the methods. I was surprised to find that one physician, Gordon Waddell, started this decline of scientific, philosophical, moral and political integrity.

Waddell could have avoided this by 1998 but he did not. Instead, he and his ideas became parts of the Establishment’s effort to destroy the Welfare State. An American Insurer, UNUM, helped out. I omit some interesting developments, especially the international assault on psychodynamics by behaviourists like Hans Eysenck in the UK and the American philosopher Adolf Grunbaum. Behaviorism prospered politically even after scholars, e.g. Noam Chomsky, successfully destroyed it.

1. “a medical model must also take into account the patient, the social context in which he lives, and the complementary system devised by society to deal with the disruptive effects of illness, that is, the physician’s role and the health care system. This requires a biopsychosocial model.” (George L. Engel, ‘The Need for a new Medical Model: A Challenge for Biomedicine.’ Science, 8 April 1977, Volume 196, Number 4286).

2a “Chronic low back pain disability can only develop with family and financial Support.”

2b “Depending on how you look at it, disability is illness behaviour, and illness behavior is disability).

(Gordon Waddell, The Back Pain Revolution, first edition 1998, pp. 227, 170).

3 “You now have targets – we didn’t. You are audited – we didn’t know what that meant. Somebody looked at our work and we worked well, but we didn’t know what the standard was or whether we were achieving it” (Professor Mansel Aylward, Atos Origin Rapport, Conference Special, July 2004).

These highlight today’s ideology of treating work (labour) as necessary to social and personal well-being, in Northern Europe and America. They display aspects of one policy that is used to enforce and justify cruel work incentives and cuts to individuals’ benefits. The basic principle is to ignore physiological problems as much as possible, by replacing them with simple observable behavioural traits whose presence are claimed to show that one can work, even when in pain, distress and medical danger. I am no social scientist, but enough of a philosopher of science to explain what has happened. The political, economic and historical background has been wonderfully treated elsewhere [1].

George Engel proposed influential ideas of treatment and healing. They derive from the holistic approach of general systems theory that was popular in the USA between, roughly, 1950 and 1980. They explored the relations of internal parts of complex physical systems to each other and to the environment in which such systems exist. Only this totality could explain the functions and dysfunctions of a system. In medicine, this was Engel’s biopsychosocial model, an extension of Claude Bernard’s idea of the ‘internal milieu’ of a living organism. It is well meant, humane, but utopian by today’s standards. A healer (or staff) trained in social, psychological and biomedical studies would be needed to implement it (see 1). It would certainly be expensive. Moreover, societal barriers to proper treatment and a patient’s good life would have to be removed. it combines some counter-cultural, philosophical and strictly scientific ideas that appealed to many, in the ‘golden age’ between 1950 and 1979.

Gordon Waddell is one of the world’s most respected orthopaedic surgeons, a status he used to gain political influence on health policy by perverting Professor Engel’s humanistic model into a tool for depriving ill people of their institutional and financial support. In 1980 he was the head author of the influential paper, ‘Nonorganic Physical Signs in Low-Back Pain’ (Spine, volume 5, number 7, 117-125). It described five bodily ‘signs’ associated with back pain (e.g. reported local skin tenderness) that, it was claimed, are ‘nonorganic, psychological, and social elements that are difficult for the busy clinician to assess,’ and that ‘appeared to have a predominantly nonorganic basis [italics in text].’ These ‘nonorganic physical signs…appear to be completely independent of the conventional symptoms and signs of pathologic conditions of the spine.’ Waddell et al. stated that they were known before they wrote, that they are ‘correlated with failure to return to work,’ and that they might well be ‘more common in “problem patients”.’ The writers used case studies to assert that ‘associated psychological symptoms and social features are usually present to confirm nonorganic physical signs.’ ‘Waddell’s Signs’ are often used to ascribe malingering to benefit claimants. Although Waddell waffles here, his methodology is simply wrong: a bodily state that has no detectable organic causes today can have them tomorrow, if science advances suitably. This obvious point undermines the theory of nonorganic signs.

Dr Waddell used this false theory in 1987, in his ‘A New Clinical Model for the Treatment of Low-Back Pain’ (Spine, volume12 number 7, 632-644), to distinguish acute and chronic pain, physical impairment, personal and social attitudes towards pain and pained persons, and disability. He argued that a sufferer’s ‘perception and interpretation of the significance of the symptoms’ influenced treatment and disability decisions. Indeed, ‘chronic pain and disability become increasingly associated with emotional distress, depression, failed treatment, and adoption of a sick role.’ ‘Chronic pain progressively becomes a self-sustaining condition that is resistant to traditional medical management.’ (My italics.) In ordinary language, Waddell claims that chronic back pain is at least partly a result of a patient’s false beliefs about pain, and a conscious or unconscious adoption of a social role that he/she views as advantageous. He combines these ideas in a perversion of Engel’s model. It reduces the complex unity of biological, psychological and social factors to a person’s ‘illness bahaviour’ in an adopted ‘sick role,’ by citing a 1984 article’s clinical definition of illness behaviour as ‘observable and potentially measurable actions and conduct which express and communicate the individual’s own perception of disturbed health’ (my italics). As Waddell co-authored that article, the definition is merely a restatement of his own idea; its behaviourist-reductionist theme is no feature of Dr Engel’s model and is a travesty of it. I’ll call Waddell’s non-biological, non-social, individualist construct, the BPS model. It is crucial to notice this illicit transformation of a good idea into one whose behaviouristic foundation was rejected for good reasons by philosophers and scientists more than 12 years before this paper was published (see Noam Chomsky’s review of B.F. Skinner’s ‘verbal behavior’ and Ulrich Neisser’s ‘Cognitive Psychology,’ both published before 1970). 2a and 2b show how Waddell distorted Engel’s notions into one barely supported statement and one mere definition. It is quite possible that these ground the non-biological, non-social ‘descriptor’ approach to disability assessments used by UNUM and Atos, developed and applied under contracts with two British governments (Labour and Tory) starting in 1998. If so, then Waddell was either scientifically, methodologically and philosophically ignorant, or was out to set up an assessment programme based on ideas he knew were highly controversial. The transparent falsity of his nonorganic sign system destroys the ‘self-sustaining’ claim, since physiological causes that maintain a condition cannot be excluded. Briefly, his fundamental ideas are scientifically baseless and morally dangerous by normal professional-ethical standards of research and clinical use. Nothing he has written warrants the extreme claims in The Back Pain Revolution, that illness behaviour quite often ‘focuses on money and implies malingering,’ and that it ‘may depend more on… psychologic events than on the underlying physical problem’ (1998: 216, 227). The pseudoscientific BPS model encourages dangerous medical practices and inadequate assessments, since it cannot estimate biological and social contributions to illness [2].

Waddell published a second edition of his book in 2004. In July 2004 Atos Origin (Atos, since 2011) published ‘Looking at the Big Picture,’ a report of a special conference. One of Waddell’s closest associates, Professor Chris Main of Manchester, described the back pain work, stressing psychology. Another, Dr Christopher Bass, applied BPS to ‘Symptoms that defy explanation’ linked to ‘sickness absence.’ He singled out chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic low-back pain, repetitive strain injury and non-cardiac chest pain, as conditions having non-organic (read: psychological) maintaining factors, i.e. Waddell’s self-sustaining processes. Professor Mansel Aylward talked about his use of BPS in his work at Cardiff University between 1985 and 2004 (quote 3). In 1989 he became Senior Medical Officer of the British government. The report notes that Aylward ‘worked closely with [Atos Origin’s] Medical Services’ on ‘LIMA, An intelligent evidence-based electronic report writing programme for Incapacity Benefit’. I’ll add that SchlumbergerSema, a firm acquired by Atos Origin in 2004, developed the first version of LIMA in August 2003. It seems that Aylward helped extend it to a second version by October 2004. Version 2’s technical manual was owned by the ‘Medical Director for DWP [Department for Work and Pensions],’ Dr Andrew Cohen. LIMA software embodies Waddell’s BPS in its ‘descriptors,’ categories that describe a person’s behavioural fitness for types of work. All biological and social influences on a person’s health have vanished; a technological corruption of Engel’s ideas whilst using his term ‘biopsychosocial.’ Waddell’s work led to this scientific and medical disgrace.

To close, note that 2001 through 2006 were critical years. In this period the American insurance company UnumProvident’s John LoCascio attended a conference near Oxford on ‘Malingering and Illness Deception,’ the UnumProvident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research was set up at Cardiff University, Waddell joined it as a surgeon turned academic, and Aylward became its Director. Its publications and related texts officially established Waddell’s BPS, used it to tragically describe disability as at least partly dependent on an individual’s psychological attitudes, beliefs and personal choice in a social context, and proposed linguistic changes and punitive action to enforce behavioural change leading either to work or minimal (if any) social security. LIMA was developed to do this, as described above. In 2006 Gordon Waddell and A. Kim Burton announced (with provisos neglected in practice) that ‘[W]ork is generally good for health and well-being.’ This completed the harmful and scientifically irresponsible application of Waddell’s misappropriation of Engel, via LIMA’s descriptors, to the illnesses mentioned above. Since these supposedly lacked organic symptoms caused by bodily dysfunctions, a new version of Waddell’s nonorganic signs emerged, which aided claim denials by insurers (esp. UNUM) and governments. Current biological research is finding increasingly more evidence of such causes. Waddell’s pseudoscience started cruel political developments that led to Atos’ notorious disability assessments. Given today’s evidence, any BPS assessment regime like the WCA should be stopped at once [3].

[1] See Jonathan Rutherford’s ‘New Labour, the market state, and the end of welfare’ in Soundings, available at, Debbie Jolly’s ‘A Tale od two Models: Disabled People vs Unum, Atos, Government and Disability Charities,’ at , and Gil Thornton’s ‘Illness as “Deviance,” Work as Glittering Salvation and the “Psyching-up” of the Medical Model: Strategies for Getting The Sick “Back To Work”, ’ at .

[2] My philosophical remarks derive from the Scientific Realism of the late Wilfrid Sellars and his followers, especially my deceased good friend Jay Rosenberg, Jeff Sicha, Jim O’Shea and Willem A. de Vries. On Sellars, see .

[3] I wish to thank Anita Bellows, Gail Ward, Debbie Jolly, Ann Whitehurst, Andy Cropper

and Karen Springer, for ideas, information and support. All of us are members or supporters of the UK’s Disabled People Against Cuts. See .

 Posted by at 14:46
Sep 172014

We are getting information that people in the ESA Support Group are being required by JobCentre Plus offices to attend Work Focussed Interviews, under threat of benefits being withdrawn if you don’t go.

According to the DWP Webpage, if you are in the Support Group you “You don’t have to go to interviews, but you can ask to talk to a personal adviser. “, which should mean that they cannot require you to attend.

We are going to look closely at this and do whatever we can to get this stopped, but in order to do that we first need to gather information about how widespread this is, which areas it is happening in and how long it has been going on.

So we are asking for people to come forward if you are in the ESA Support Group and have been contacted by your Jobcentre to attend an interview, we would really like to hear from you, please email us at and we will get back to you

We will never disclose your name or personal information without  your permission, but we may ask you if we can use your case to campaign against this. If you say no to this we will not use the information in any way, and your information will still help us to understand what is happening.


 Posted by at 14:47
Sep 082014

(1) The Work Capability Assessment is a much more rigid test & cannot be compared with former Personal Capability Assessments.  It is inconceivable that a conclusion can be reached that the more rigid Work Capability Assessment has become easier to negotiate than the previous Personal Capability Assessment which had a lower threshold.
It is not accepted that there has been any form of significant improvement in the claims process surrounding the Work Capability Assessment.
Never before has one benefit assessment process attracted so much adverse publicity and negativity as the Work Capability Assessment.
It stands to reason that if the test is set as high bar as the Work Capability Assessment is, it logically follows that qualifying for entitlement will be far more difficult than qualifying for the previous Incapacity Benefit via the Personal Capability Assessment process used to determine eligibility for Incapacity Benefit & Income Support on the grounds of incapacity for work.
It is not accepted that any accurate comparison with Incapacity Benefit can be drawn without full regard to analysing similar cohort factors such as the ages, ICD coding, duration of claim, gender, and regions of the claimants being taken in to consideration.

(2) No comparisons can be drawn between Incapacity Benefit & Employment & Support Allowance without a proper scrutiny of a more complete set of statistics
Before drawing any analysis between Incapacity Benefit and ESA, the numbers of claimants used in the comparison including on and off flows would need to be carefully scrutinised. This is especially important where the flow rate is mixed with ib/ESA migration cases and where it can no longer be safely concluded that new ESA claimants are not in fact older claimants who have since submitted a fresh claim.
Between October 2008 and September 2013 the ESA regime has involved a total departmental case-load (across all cohorts) of 6,440,000 cases involving 4,396,400 Work Capability Assessments of which 1,198,700 were a repeat.  A case load of this magnitude requires considerable analysis across all cohorts before any accurate comparisons can be drawn between the older incapacity benefits and ESA.  The former was far less complex in cohort terms.
Between October 2008 and September 2013, 1,407,400 claimants have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group (453,300 at repeat assessment) and 1,437,300 in the Support Group (479,800 at repeat assessment).  These figures are considerably higher than those relating to the new ESA claim group in which 484,900 have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group and 445,400 have been placed in the Support Group. Far more information is required as to not only the numbers allocated to the groups but also what happens to the claimants after they have been assessed in to a placement.

(3) The DWP needs to produce statistics on appeals & reconsiderations before any reliance be can be placed on the Work Capability Assessment statistics.  Well over a million claimants have disputed the findings of Work Capability Assessments and the full dispute outcomes are as yet still unknown.
From April 2009 to December 2013, HMCTS figures confirm 1,054,541 ESA appeals have been lodged with Tribunals of which an average of 40 + % of those already heard have been overturned in the claimant’s favour.  These figures are far in excess of any related to the previous Incapacity Benefit and are an obvious indicator of significant numbers of claimants having a lack of confidence in the decision reached at initial assessment.
The DWP’s WCA statistics are inherently unreliable and cannot be read in the context of isolated quotations from quarterly releases without proper reference being made to the more specific and overall totals available.  The overall (cumulative) ‘qualifying’ rates for claimants are (up to September 2013):
-New ESA claimants 47%
-New ESA claimants at repeat assessment 78%
-IB/ESA migrated claimants 80%

Whilst it may be helpful to look at quarterly shifts in the figures, it is the overall cumulative rate which needs to change before it can be safely concluded that any material change has taken place.

The DWP’s WCA statistics are rendered inaccurate by way of the DWP’s inherently slow update of information from the inputting of the number of formal appeals lodged with HMCTS together with a total lack of explanation as to the number of initial decisions overturned informally following DWP reconsideration. This is particularly important in respect of monitoring the effects of mandatory reconsideration since October 2013.

(4) Employment & Support Allowance is an entirely different regime to that of Incapacity Benefit making any comparison unreliable.  Delays with the DWP & Atos Healthcare have resulted in a chronic backlog of 750,000 cases awaiting assessments from which no conclusions can be drawn.  The WCA statistics are made additionally complex by the influx of a case load of 1,354,800 claimants assessed from the Incapacity Benefit migration programme.
The claims process involving ESA is entirely different to that of Incapacity Benefit.  ESA involves the claimant initially being subjected to what should be a 13 week assessment phase before the Work Capability Assessment decision is decided upon by the DWP.  It is only once the assessment phase has been completed that a proper decision can be made as to whether the claimant can move in to the main WRAG/Support Group phases of ESA entitlement.  Chronic delays have built up to a point where the backlog awaiting assessment had recently reached over 750,000 claimants.  It is a clear sign that the DWP was earlier ‘over reassessing’ claimants leading to a substantial lack of residual data on outcomes and the possibility that the Department is now making less rigid placement decisions in order to get though its chronically stretched backlog.
Claimants who have undergone ib to ESA migration do not in any event claim ESA, their claim is merely converted (providing they qualify at the point of WCA conversion) and thus no comparison can be drawn between this cohort and those making a new ESA claim from scratch.

(5) Statistical manipulation
Between October 2008 and September 2013, the Work Capability Assessment statistics record that 1,551,500 claimants have been found fit for work and 1,500,900 claimants have ended their claims without completing their Work Capability Assessment. In total the overall number of claimants who seemingly should have exited Employment & Support Allowance is therefore in excess of 3 million claimants. However the DWP off flow figures for the period October 2008 to August 2013 show the numbers exiting from Employment & Support Allowance to be 2,288,980.

The number of claimants leaving Employment & Support Allowance who closed their claims is a fixed statistic, whereas the number found fit for work is reversible if the claimant appeals or requests a reconsideration.
It is hard to understand how an apparent ‘exodus’ of some 3 million plus Employment & Support Allowance claimants as shown in the assessment statistics is not matched by statistics showing a rise in the numbers claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.
In addition to the exodus related to assessment, there are also claimants who will have died, transferred to other benefits or ended their claim through time limiting imposed upon contributory claimants in the Work Related Activity Group who cease claiming where there are no grounds upon which to continue claiming income based Employment & Support Allowance.
DWP figures, related to on-flows, show that of October 2008 to August 2013, 636,410 Employment & Support Allowance claimants made a second or more claim for Employment & Support Allowance. This will add substantially to the number of on flows and may therefore give a distorted perception over more claimants claiming as well as ‘clouding’ the influx of what may appear to be new Employment & Support Allowance claimants who are in fact previous claimants who have simply made another claim.

(6) Mistrust
Media articles including those relating to the deaths of ESA claimants such as Graham Shawcross (63), Mark Wood (44), Neil Groves (46), Lee Robinson (39), Elenore Tatton (39), Linda Wootton (49), Brian McCardle (57), Karen Sherlock (44), Trevor Drakard (50), David Groves (56) and others have created a massive mistrust in the Work Capability Assessment as a valid measure of a claimant’s ability to work.  The DWP has failed to produce any up to date statistics upon which any reliable conclusions can be drawn as to the number of deaths & whether they can be ruled out as being directly or indirectly related to the Work Capability Assessment process.
The Work Capability Assessment remains condemned by disability groups, the BMA, National Charities, senior judges and Parliamentary Select Committees. The process has been identified as unfit for purpose and of such toxicity that major re-work is required. There clearly remains widespread concern that the WCA has not improved, customers have no confidence in it in, employers are clearly not convinced by it as an accurate measure of fitness to work as evidenced by the appalling Work Programme Job Outcomes valid to March 2014:
In the New ESA claimant group, out of 484,900 in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’, just 10,760 ended up with a Job Outcome (2.2%)
In the Incapacity Benefit to ESA conversion group, out of 469,200 claimants placed in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ just 980 ended up with a job outcome (0.2%)
In the Incapacity Benefit to ESA conversion group, out of 249,300 claimants found ‘fit for work’ just 3,160 (1.4%) ended up with a job outcome.   Whilst this appalling result is shocking in itself, it should be remembered that the DWP’s figures only point to people on JSA who have been on incapacity benefits.  These figures may therefore relate to claimants who have ended their older incapacity claims and taken up a JSA claim voluntarily without being tested for ESA.
In the overall ‘voluntary participation group’ where there is no mandatory requirement to take part (unless a claimant has agreed to participate) out of 957,500 claimants placed in the Support Group (from both new ESA and incapacity to ESA claim groups) 3,350 claimants (0.4%) ended up with a job via the Work Programme. This group does better than the mandatory groups in incapacity to ESA conversion cases.

(7) Summary
It is unsafe to draw any conclusion that it is any easier for a claimant to make a claim for Employment & Support Allowance than it was for previous range of incapacity benefits. It is not possible to make a valid comparison on the basis of comparing numbers/success. A full explanation as to how claimants made their claims and how they were assessed is required before an accurate comparison can be made.  There is simply not enough information currently available to conclude that the Harrington reviews have led to any identifiable improvement.
A rise in the numbers being placed within the Support Group and Work Related Activity Groups may be more related to the greater number of claimants involved, the appeal/reconsideration results beginning to filter through after data lag, more claimants re-applying after being turned down, less capacity within the Work Programme to handle the larger numbers involved and a reduction in the number of repeat & ib/ESA migration assessments following the announcement that Atos Healthcare were withdrawing from the contract to conduct assessments for the DWP.
For these reasons any claim that it is easier to make a claim for Employment & Support Allowance than it was for Incapacity Benefit is strongly refuted.
By Nick Dilworth.
For and on behalf of New Approach.
New Approach are committed to working with other individuals & groups, please add your signature to this statement by emailing or in comments.

follow new Approach on twitter @newapproach_uk

website: www.

Aug 162014


(Report from workshop at national meeting of Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice federation)

Fighting Benefit Sanctions


The government has a policy  of increasing sanctions to force people off benefits. 


More than 800,000 people have been sanctioned in the last year. Referrals to food banks are mainly due to claimants being sanctioned. 


Martin Cavanagh is the PCS Group Exec member for civil servants working in the DWP.  The PCS union resolved at their recent conference to oppose both Workfare and Benefit Sanctions. He explained the three central reasons behind the Tories policy of increasing sanctions; Further demonisation of the poor, financial savings for the government, and driving a wedge between claimants and workers. 


PCS survey of members working in the DWP revealed that 82% of members felt ‘pressured’ into sanctioning claimants, and 62% said they had made ‘inappropriate’ sanctions decisions. 


The Kirklees Axe The Tax group have used a banner : No Sanction for Claimants! No Targets for Staff! This attracted claimants and some staff to their stall outside a job centre.


Roger Lewis speaking for DPAC said that ‘more needed to be done by the PCS.’ But, he insisted, ‘we will not allow the government to divide us. Those working for the DWP alongside claimants have a common interest, we are locked together in a common fight against the Tories.’ 


‘More will be done from our union the PCS over the sanctions,’ explained Martin. 


‘Advice for claimants on how to challenge sanction decisions has now been agreed between our union, the PCS, Unite the Union Community branches, and campaigners against sanctions. That advice will be issued shortly.’


Research has shown that only 1 in 50 claimants who are sanctioned appeal the decision. Of those 90% win their appeal. Forthcoming advice will explain to claimants how they can appeal. 


To launch the joint advice and joint campaign, we agreed a day of action against benefit sanctions for Thursday 11th September. 


Protests will be organised in every region outside key DWP headquarters or similar high profile government offices.

Fighting Workfare

Public campaigns work! 


With just a few protesters the Boycott Workfare actions have ‘shamed’ many employers into withdrawing from the Workfare scheme. Companies and businesses don’t want to be exposed as employing ‘slave’ labour. Only when a company signs up to the Boycott Workfare pledge are they removed for the Boycott Workfare website listing. 


Protests outside flagship venues of those companies still in the scheme will continue until the schemes are scrapped.


Reblogged with thanks from



Jul 242014


Joint statement by Black Triangle Campaign, CarerWatch, Disabled People Against Cuts, Mental Health Resistance Network, Pats Petition, #NewApproach and WOWPetition

The WCA presumes that there are too many people on disability benefits because disabled people are too lazy or too comfortable living on benefits to work.

It is founded in the idea that disabled people need to be harassed and hounded out of their comfortable life into finding work under the threat of loss of benefits.

No one is comfortable living on benefits. Disabled people are no more lazy that the rest of the population.

The real reason that there are so many people on benefits is that society does not include disabled people.

We do not have the same access to education, transport, housing and jobs.

Social attitudes ensure that disabled people in the workplace are seen as a problem, rather than an equal opportunity.

And there are large numbers of disabled people who simply can not work. Why should they be harassed? Why should they be hounded?. Why should they have to live in fear?.

We know, and this report confirms, that many people have wrongly been found “fit for work” when they can’t work.

We also know and the UK courts have confirmed WCA discriminates against claimants with mental health impairments.

The Work and Pensions Committee report recommends “improvements” to make the system more workable and less harmful.

This is pointless, because it would not make the WCA any less wrong or any more useful

We call once again on Labour to commit to scrapping the WCA and to address the real problems that disabled people on benefits face in society.

We call once again on the British Medical Association to send guidance on DWP rules “29 and 35” which allows doctors to prevent foreseeable harm being done to ‘at risk’ patients.

They didn’t improve slavery, they abolished it, because it was wrong.

They didn’t amend Apartheid , they ended it because it was wrong

The WCA is wrong, and it needs to be abolished


Andy Greene, Disabled People Against Cuts
Annie Howard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Bob Ellard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Debbie Jolly, Disabled People Against Cuts
Denise McKenna, Mental Health Resistance Network
Jane Bence, #NewApproach
Eleanor Firman, Disabled People Against Cuts
Ellen Clifford, Disabled People Against Cuts
Gail Ward, Disabled People Against Cuts
John James McArdle, Black Triangle Campaign
Katy Marchant, Disabled People Against Cuts
Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts
Michelle Maher, WOWPetition
Nick Dilworth, #NewApproach
Pat Onions, Pats Petition
Paula Peters, Disabled People Against Cuts
Rick Burgess, #NewApproach
Roger Lewis, Disabled People Against Cuts
Rosemary O’Neil, Carerwatch
Roy Bard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Wayne Blackburn, #NewApproach
 Posted by at 14:47
Jul 032014
Friday 4th July 2pm: Independent Living Tea Party – Caxton House, Tothill St, London, SW1 #SaveILF
Friday 4th July 3pm: LET THEM EAT CAKE? No to all sanctions! Fri 4th July, 3-5pm Peckham Jobcentre.
Monday 7th July 9am: Justice for Tony and George 7th July Sheffield
Tuesday 8th July 12-2pm: Vigil for the WCA Judicial Review High Court, London
Wednesday 9th July 1pm: Legal Challenge to PIP descriptors, Birmingham – Vigil

The flyer that has been printed to hand out during the Vigil for the WCA Judicial Review at the High Court in London on the 8th of July has been reproduced below.

At the end are details of our call for people to support us by writing to Iain Duncan Smith to inform him that you are aware of the case and that you support the claimants’ fight for justice.

And if you can’t make the vigil, you can still join in by tweeting on #wcamentalhealth, Tuesday 8th July, 12pm-2pm

Banner Picture With MHRN and DPAC logos plus title

WHY ARE WE HERE TODAY? You may have heard of the tough new assessments for people claiming disability benefits; the truth is that these are mock assessments that the government are carrying out via Atos which ignore our disabilities and focus on whether we can walk 20 metres, push a button and sit in a chair. We are fighting to ensure that they conduct real assessments instead.

DID YOU KNOW THAT THE GOVERNMENT DO NOT WANT TO ASSESS US ON THE BASIS OF MEDICAL EVIDENCE FROM OUR DOCTORS AND THE OTHER HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS WHO TREAT US? Why is this? It is because the assessments that we currently go through are specifically designed to deny us access to benefits and the DWP knows that if they had to look at our medical evidence, the majority of us would qualify for disability benefits. They have been fighting tooth and nail in court to be able to continue carrying out assessments that cause harm, in order to push through the ideologically driven policies of the coalition government, with the ultimate goal of abolishing the welfare state.


It has been successfully argued in court that the DWP should make reasonable adjustments to the WCA process to make it fit for purpose, as is required of them by the Equalities Act of 2010. Today the court is hearing about what reasonable adjustments, if any, the DWP propose to make.
One would never imagine, by looking at the stories in our national media, the high levels of distress, anxiety and fear that the WCA process is causing to people who already live with mental distress. HOWEVER THERE IS CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT THERE HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF SUICIDES BY CLAIMANTS GOING THROUGH THE WCA PROCESS. In addition, an overwhelming number of people have suffered a serious deterioration in their mental health requiring further NHS treatment, including hospital admissions, or have had to increase their medication as a result of having to go through this cruel and iniquitous process.
PLEASE SUPPORT OUR STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE and ensure that the safety net which exists for all of us remains effective and firmly in place by writing to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Right Honourable Iain Duncan Smith, MP, to inform him that you are aware of the case and that you support the claimants’ fight for justice.
His contact details are:

The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP
Secretary of State
Department for Work and Pensions
Caxton House
Tothill Street

Or email:
This vigil has been organised by DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) in partnership with the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN)


 Posted by at 22:41
Jun 172014

DWP ministers said only 9% of ESA decisions were wrong.  Our research reveals the DWP have been quoting from figures which state 151,800 appeals have succeeded.  Our evidence shows the true figure to be at least 567,634 – casting serious doubt over 43% of 1,302,200 ‘fit for work’ decisions. 

ilegal Press Release – 16th June 2013

DWP’s internal figures reveal a much higher number of successful ESA appeals than have been made publicly available.


DWP reply on 13 June 2014 to a Freedom of Information Act request made as part of an investigation in to DWP figures relating to the controversial Work Capability Assessment by has revealed that of 1,287,323 ESA appeals, at least 567,634 claimants have had the original DWP decision overturned in their favour.

Government’s key defence of the assessments has been that around 9% of all decisions are incorrect.  The most controversial of which are those where a claimant is found fit for work.  DWP figures (for new claims) show that betweenOctober 2008 and September 2013 a total of 1,306,200 fit for work decisions have been made.

It is with considerable disappointment noted that the DWP’s latest publicly available statistics confirm that only 151,800 successful appeals have been recorded out of a total of 410,400 appeals (for new claimants only).  Our investigations reveal evidence of three times as many appeals being ‘internally recorded’ of which
567,634 have been successful.  The DWP have revealed to us figures which show nearly quarter of a million internal reconsiderations have led to decisions on new ESA claims being overturned in favour of the claimant; we have added these to figures from HMCTS tribunals which provides us with a much higher figure than the DWP seems to be prepared to admit to in their publicly available figures.

Our intensive research into the assessment of claimants for the DWP’s Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) has, following a freedom of information request to the DWP, provided one of the final pieces of the jigsaw needed to unpick the Department’s overly complicated statistics. We now have the final clue which has enabled us to identify that no less than 567,634 ESA claimants have in fact had their initial ESA refusals overturned in their favour.

It is a startling revelation that the government department has apparently been keeping a lid on a set of statistics that clearly shows between May 2010 and June 2013 no less than 820,356 decisions were looked at again by the DWP after claimants had been assessed by the controversial private contractors Atos Healthcare. These ‘internal’ statistics show that a very substantial 232,782 (28.5%) decisions were then subsequently overturned in the claimant’s favour.

What makes this all the worse is that these reconsideration statistics come on top of separate figures that show us that of those claimants who did not have the decisions overturned in their favour by the DWP, 817,102 went on to appeal to tribunals arranged by Her Majesties’ Courts & Tribunals Service where a further 332,607 were then overturned in the claimant’s favour by the tribunal.

These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right

These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right. Government ministers in conjunction with the DWP’s Press office have been telling us that a million claimants have been found fit for work whereas these figures show that in reality this is only a small part of the true story and that huge numbers have gone on to successfully appeal decisions which were wrong.

These new figures highlight the dubious practice of using the unchallenged assessment results, which only encourage media sensationalisation, with headlines such as those appearing in the Daily Express in July 2011 stating that ‘75% on sickness benefits were faking’. The same article goes on to say that out of ‘…2.6 million on the sick, 1.9 million could work’ before receiving an endorsement from the Prime Minister with an assurance that his government was “producing a much better system where we put people through their paces and say that if you can work, you should work”.

DWP and Ministers know the truth, they just aren’t telling anyone

These figures have been available to the DWP and its ministers since April 2010 from their ‘Decision Making & Appeals Case Recorder (DMACR) – ESA Management Information Statistics’. The DWP confirms this to be unpublished information which is for internal department information only, yet our research notes that the Right Hon Chris Grayling was using the same information in answer to Parliamentary questions on the 10th January 2012. 

We question then why the DWP has consistently ‘over promoted’ only the results of Work Capability Assessments relating to ‘initial’ decisions (including the opinions of Atos Healthcare in the absence of a statutory DWP decision) when it could instead have come clean and declared how hundreds of thousands of their incorrect decisions have since been overturned in favour of the person appealing.

These revelations seriously undermine the DWP’s contention that the initial Work Capability Assessment outcomes are a valid measure of the claimant’s ability to work. The DWP has consistently defended its assessments by giving an impression that only a relatively low number of decisions have been overturned whereas the reality is that well over half a million have resulted in a successful outcome for the claimant.

And this DOES NOT include the 712,000 people awaiting assessments BEFORE they can appeal

This news must have come as cause for grave concern when considered in the light of a recent revelation by DWP Minister Mike Penning which revealed that in addition to the figures we have highlighted, a further 712,000 Employment & Support Allowance claimants are awaiting assessments without which they cannot yet appeal.

This hugely unacceptable backlog of cases means people with disabling medical conditions are left hanging for months and months on a basic allowance way below what they are entitled to. This is leaving hundreds of thousands deprived of the support they require and means having to scrape by on money which is wholly insufficient to meet their needs due to disability and illness. It also means many claimants affected by severe and complex mental health conditions are facing prolonged torment as they wait month upon month for their decision to be overturned before they can even lodge an appeal.

Face up to reality: it doesn’t work. Scrap the WCA

These findings add considerably to the pleas of disabled groups all over the country to scrap the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and to find a better way to assess their needs.

It is simply appalling that the DWP, along with Ministers and other government spokespeople appear to be feeding the media with misleading statistics that are unrepresentative of the real story and instead encourage headlines vilifying the disabled and the genuinely ill. These figures clearly show the DWP has evidence in their possession which shows how in far too many cases the decisions it is making are dead wrong and they know they’re dead wrong.

Editorial notes

Please contact the author of this article Nick Dilworth for verification of any of the figures quoted.  We welcome sharing our findings on social media and allow this information to be produced providing credit is given to the
i-legal website with links to the article produced.

We apologise for the slight delay in publishing this release.  This was due to a need to align the figures to ones recently produced by the DWP in their Work Capability Assessment figures released on the 12th June 2014 which relate to the most recent statistics up to September 2013.

A full supporting explanatory memorandum will be published very shortly.

The Reconsideration statistics relate to new ESA claimants only (excluding incapacity benefit to ESA conversion cases) whereas HMCTS figures refer to all ESA claimants.  It is our contention that had the DWP supplied all of the information we had requested, the figures for reconsiderations would have been considerably higher.

We acknowledge that not all appeals will be against fit for work findings for new claimants but given the DWP’s emphasis on this claimant cohort and the lack of information to the contrary we are of the contention that other appeals relating to claimants being moved from the Work Related Activity Group to Support Group are likely to be of a much lower volume and more likely to be contained within the cohort relating to incapacity benefit/ESA assessment.

We would like to express our thanks to Anita Bellows an i-legal member for her cooperation and for making the freedom of information request upon our guidance and our thanks extend to the DPAC organisation with whom Anita is also a member.

with thanks as ever to Nick  @Mylegalforum

Jun 032014


Who 2 Vote 4 As part of DPAC’s Who 2 Vote 4 campaign Anita Bellows delves in to the history files, to examine who made the decision to move Incapacity Benefit Claimants onto ESA and the warnings that were made about that at the time.

Even before the full reassessment of Incapacity Benefits claimants was in full swing, academics predicted a disaster with 600,000 claimants forced off Incapacity Benefits, particularly for those living in regions of high unemployment.

A Guardian article refers to a study undertaken in 2011 by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research of Sheffield Hallam University (CRESR)  which showed that it was possible to anticipate the dire consequences of IB reassessments and of the ESA regime which relied on a tougher test, but which was already known at the time to be flawed: the Work Capability Assessment.

But the CRESR was not the first, and certainly not the only opponent to the IB migration, and to raise doubts about IB reassessment, the Work Capability Assessment, and the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) regime.

As early as May 2010, the Social Security Advisory Committee, the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, and the House of Lords all separately warned first the Labour government and then the Coalition government of the potential negative impacts on disability benefit claimants if the IB reassessments went ahead, especially with a tougher test and a standard of assessment which was “not always good enough, especially for people with mental health and cognitive difficulties”.

Both governments decided to ignore these warnings and to go ahead, even before knowing the findings and recommendations of the first review of the WCA.

Background to the reassessment of  existing Incapacity Benefit claimants

Employment and Support Allowance did not initially affect existing claimants of incapacity benefits, but the Labour Government made it clear from the outset that existing claimants would be reassessed for ESA.

Budget 2008 [para 4.5] announced that all existing Incapacity Benefit claimants would be required to take the Work Capability Assessment from April 2013.

March 2010 regulations

Regulations laid before Parliament by the Labour Government on 29 March 2010 provided for the “migration” of the remaining incapacity benefits claimants customers to ESA between October 2010 and March 2014, provided they satisfied the Work Capability Assessment.

The draft regulations were subject to full scrutiny by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), who published its report in March 2010 with the response of the government.

March 2010 Social Security Advisory Committee’s report

The Committee believed that the migration arrangements in the draft regulations could not be implemented without the risk of operational stress and adverse impacts on significant numbers of vulnerable people before adding: “In our view, the Department should not embark upon the proposed migration until the well-documented problems with current ESA processes and procedures (including those with the WCA) have been resolved, any changes to the Pathways programme have been implemented and bedded-in, and improvements have been made to the support available for JSA claimants with a health condition or disability”.

The Committee raised also several concerns:

  • Lack of a solid evidence base for the decision to migrate or the proposed migration arrangements.
  • Underestimation by DWP of the support required by this group of claimants, in terms of both their participation in a more active benefit regime and the support required to move them closer to the labour market.
  • ESA evaluation for new claimants is not planned to be completed until 2011, by which time the proposed migration arrangements will have commenced.

And the Committee recommended that the migration to ESA did not proceed to the current timetable but waits until:

  • a stronger evidence base on what works and whether ESA is achieving its aims is available
  • the new regime for claimants with a health condition or disability (as an outcome of the Pathways review) has bedded down
  • DWP’s review of the WCA is complete, recommendations have been considered and any necessary changes have been made
  • demand-side approaches to stimulating the labour market have begun to have a positive impact on local demand for labour, particularly in areas with a high concentration of IB claimants.

And in case the migration did proceed as planned the Committee made several recommendations, notably that the quality of the WCA should be improved, particularly for claimants with mental health problems and cognitive and learning difficulties, and that Incapacity benefits claimants currently exempt from the PCA should be automatically treated as meeting the conditions for the ESA Support Group.

March 2010 Government’s response

In its response in the same document, Point 141, the Labour Government rejected the Committee’s call to alter the timetable for migration, but took on board some of the Committee’s concerns and undertook to continue to engage with “stakeholders” as the migration proceeded, stating:

“The Government has carefully considered the Committee’s concerns in relation to the ESA transitional Regulations and their wider concerns about the migration programme. However, for the reasons outlined in this response it does not accept the Committee’s recommendation that migration should not continue to the current timetable. The Government considers the migration of existing incapacity benefits customers to be a key element of welfare reform and one that will greatly benefit customers at a time when support to get back to work is urgently needed. The Government does not believe it would be right or fair to delay this support for customers who have been without it for too long already”.

June 2010 House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee’s report

In June 2010, after the General election, the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee published a report which echoed the concerns voiced by the SSAC about whether there would be sufficient support for these groups of claimants, and the lack of evidence on how ESA was working for new claimants, notably that the Committee, from the limited evidence they have seen thought that a

“major project with a potential impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable in the community is being conducted in a rather ad hoc fashion. The second phase is being rolled out before the first has been evaluated and although better information will be sought on the outcomes, the Department’s intended course of action, and evidence to support it, all seem rather vague”

It voices also concerns about the capacity of only 20 Benefit centres to absorb and process the transition of 10,000 cases per week, the arrangements put into place by DWP for Job centres, as “many of the customers will have special needs”, and the quality of the Work Capability Assessment.

The Committee also asked DWP what percentage of those ESA claimants sent down the JSA route obtained work, and what happened to the 30% who moved off benefits, to which DWP replied that the Department did not hold the information centrally, but that it intended “to carry out a qualitative piece of in-depth research on unsuccessful ESA claimants who do not qualify for ESA, have their claim closed, or withdraw their claim”.

One report was published in 2011 [para 4.4.2] in which DWP acknowledged that it knew nothing about ESA claimants found fit for work, and not claiming JSA.

July 2010 House of Lords’s debate to motion

The House of Lords then debated a motion to take note of the Merits Committee’s report on 20 July 2010 which criticised the reassessment of existing IB claimants, the WCA and the ESA regime and which quoted Professor Gregg, the architect of the sanctions regime in the two most recent Welfare Reform Acts as saying: “To start moving people who may have been on incapacity benefit for years straight onto jobseeker’s allowance is ridiculous. Before wading into the stock, the system has to be right“.

To which Lord Freud answered by providing reassurance that everything was fine and under control, and that even this year in March (2010), “a DWP-led review of the work capability assessment found that generally it is accurately identifying individuals for the right support”.

The General Election is one year away and the choice is likely to be between the two main parties.

  • Both of them were alerted in 2010 to the risks people claiming incapacity benefits could be exposed to, if IB reassessments went ahead.
  • Both parties knew there was a real capacity gap in Job centres and Benefit centres to deal with the number estimated by DWP to be found fit for work.
  • Both parties were warned about the issues already plaguing the Work Capability Assessment.
  • Both parties chose to ignore these warnings and to proceed with a flawed reassessment process.

While the Conservative party, through Iain Duncan Smith, and the various Ministers for Disabled People has shown itself to be indifferent to the plight of people who need support because they cannot work, the Labour party should not be let off the hook.

Would Labour have done things differently? Maybe, but the fact is we don’t know, and while they were in power, they did not show any willingness to protect these groups of people from harm.

Before being trusted again, the Labour party has to acknowledge its errors of the past and make concrete proposals to put things right.

The ball is in their court.


 Posted by at 16:19