Imagine a person who at their work station has a completely free choice to stand, sit or alternate between the two. When standing, they are free to move around. Yet they cannot remain at that work station for more than an hour without having to move away from it, to avoid significant discomfort or exhaustion. Imagine also that that person is both deaf and blind, so that they have difficulty understanding a simple message from a stranger, though that stranger tries to convey it by showing the person 16 point print, or a message typed in braille, or by using verbal means such as hearing or lip-reading. It is hard to imagine what job that person could do. Yet if that person did not score any other points on the “limited capacity for work” assessment, they would be refused ESA, which is allegedly the benefit for people unfit for work. Instead, they would have to sign on every two weeks, look for work, and receive a much lower rate of benefit.
Even if they are also at risk of voiding of the bladder or extensive evacuation of the bowel such as to require cleaning and a change in clothing if not able to reach a toilet quickly, they would have to participate in “work-related activity” in order to get benefit.
So when the Government estimates that the number of people on ESA fell by 20,000 between March and August, and by 67,000 since August 2011, this is not because of any improvement in condition, but the application of a test unrelated to capacity for work, designed to pay the benefit only to a very few.
The test is administered in an incompetent and draconian manner.
I am fascinated to see that the Ministry of Justice publishes Gender Recognition Certificate statistics with its benefits tribunal stats, in this pdf. 93 GRCs were granted in the second quarter of 2015 (73% were M-F). There were 13,502 appeals of ESA decisions in April to June 2015, and 58% of those appeals going to a hearing were granted. The mean time for these appeals to take, not including “Mandatory Reconsideration”, the internal DWP process an appellant must go through before appealing, was 19 weeks.
While appealing, a claimant must claim JSA, which involves signing on every two weeks and actively seeking work, after the ESA (Repeat Assessment and Pending Appeal Awards)(Amendment) Regulations 2015. These also abolish the rule that the DWP will accept a sick note from a GP six months after a finding that the claimant was not entitled to ESA. Now, after a finding of non-entitlement, a claimant must prove they have a significant worsening or a new medical condition making them unfit, however long after the finding the new claim is made.
Meanwhile, GPs are less likely to issue sick notes, believing that the routine involved in working is good for the mental health of their patients. It would be, if suitable work were available. Going through the claims and appeals process is very bad for mental health.
I am half sick of shadows, said the Lady of Shalott.