The role of incapacity benefit reassessment in helping claimants into employment - Work and Pensions Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by M Bernard

I speak as a carer for a disabled relative, about to be put through the transfer from Incapacity Benefit to ESA who has grave concerns about this whole process, and the impact on the disabled community, who are suffering as a group from a distinct lack of protection from Government and a duty of care. Their human rights are being eroded, which is a sad and worrying state of affairs for a modern civilised country to be connected with. We should be cherishing those that need our help, not traumatising them by threats and punishments. If all the people currently living independently in the community are forced into institutions by these measures, how will this Government be seen by others, and where are all these institutions? I don't want to see disabled people begging on street corners in this country, or on back-wards of hospitals, don't let this Government take away their dignity and rights, and turn back the progress made.

—  1.  The whole process from start to finish is almost designed to terrify the most vulnerable people who receive the initial notification letters and forms. Disabled and sick people should not be put under such strain, and speaking as a carer who is anticipating this process I feel terrified too. So much is at stake, for people who are only just coping now. The support offered I believe will be very patchy, and with so many people being reassessed together there will not be enough time to look after everyone, even if it were the intention.

—  2.  The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is designed I believe to catch people out, and vulnerable people will very often say things that can be misconstrued or perverted to fit the tick-box culture of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Atos are paid by results and the results they seek are to get as many people off benefits as possible, their judgements and techniques are tarnished by profits, they have no interest in the person in front of them, they do not know the person's history, they are computer driven operatives, well-paid and detached from human misery. The centres of examination are processing plants for the vulnerable to be led through and out the other side, impersonal and scary places for people both physically and mentally to be put through.

—  3.  People would have more confidence in the system if it was not run by a money making enterprise like Atos, and that evidence was taken from a claimants, records, medical history, GP reports, other medical people involved with the claimant, carers both from outside agencies and their own personal carers, and more importantly from the person themselves, who knows better than anyone, if they have any hope of working again. Many more people should be exempt from this process, and should be told that as soon as possible so that they can stop worrying, which in many cases is causing their condition to worsen.

—  4.  Appeals should be much more straight forward and quicker, people shouldn't be left for weeks not knowing their fate. As soon as an appeal is lodged, they should know how long they will have to wait for a decision. Their benefit should remain intact in every regard, until the appeal is resolved. Then the decision should be given in clear language and as positively as possible, with as much help as required for the individual and their carer as possible.

—  5.  The whole ESA benefit is deeply flawed even Professor Gregg has said this. More people need to be in a safe place, not enough people are in the support group, and those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) groups are placed in a deeply insecure and stressful situation. Not fit to work but having to jump through hoops, and then after a year dumped on Jobseekers Allowance, losing benefits and support, and who knows the roof over their heads too. Constant re-assessment is cruel and costly, people can never relax, always having to prove their disability or illness, for fear of losing benefits. The disabled community should not be put through this terrible ordeal, they should not be lumped together and treated as if they do not have special needs eg asking a blind person if they are still blind is the ultimate cruelty.

—  6.  I believe the national roll-out should be halted, until everyone is satisfied with the findings of this investigation. I also believe that ESA should be scrapped and the existing benefits in place for disabled and long-term sick should be left in place essentially, but reviewed in a totally different and fairer way.

March 2011

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