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

Written evidence submitted by Catherine Burns


I fear that Work Capability Assessments are unfit for purpose and do not treat younger claimants fairly. Time limiting ESA to one year will cause unnecessary stress and suffering. It is unfair and unrealistic.

1.  My initial fear is the assessment process. I have heard several stories about people being treated unfairly, the reports being false and not representative of the claimant's needs or disabilities. I was born with my disability, and being only 37, I now have mobility issues, and also pain and tiredness. Having been through the process of an appeal for DLA, I know how the system can react to a younger person asking for support. So the idea of having to go through even harsher tests for ESA really frightens me.

2.  Time limiting ESA—I understand the "idea" behind this is to try and help to get people back to work, but you can't put a time limit on how people recover. In the past five years I have had five operations on my legs, just to keep me walking and to try and slow down the rate at which my joints are falling apart. The first operation took me nine months to recover from. I face many more surgeries just to keep me active and then eventually four joint replacements, which all have a limited life, mainly because of my age.

3.  Time limiting ESA to 12 months, will do nothing for my health, it won't help to find me a job, it won't help to make me better off, it will do the opposite. It will financially burden me and my family, it will add stress, worry and sleepless nights (which I already have) because of the thought of what will happen when the money runs out.

4.  This is putting unreasonable pressure on my family - To be completely honest I am really worried about what the future holds for me, on top of the surgery and recovery, then no finance to help support me and my family, to give me the time to recover from the operations, I am sure it will eventually cost me my family. At some point the strain will take its toll.

5.  Working families like mine are being unfairly punished by time limiting ESA - I have two children, my daughter helps me with a lot of my care needs, she is only 11. My husband works every hour he can to provide us with enough money to get by on, but because he does that we are being punished, not only because he can work, but because I was born with a disability.

6.  Don't get me wrong I would love to return to work, but it needs to be at a point when I am strong and healthy enough to cope with that. It needs to be with an employer who will understand that I need further surgery and who accepts that I will need the time off to recover. I know myself that those types of employer are few and far between, but what makes it worse, is restricting disabled people to 12 months at a time when unemployment is rising. The chance of finding work with an employer who understands your needs is virtually impossible.

7.  ESA shouldn't just be about getting people fit for work, it should be about providing the support to get people back to work, but at a point that is sustainable to them. A 12 month limit is unfair, unrealistic and virtually barbaric. The Government promised nobody will get left behind. I will and so will my family. I will face the biggest cuts of any group under the coalition Government. Even people in the highest earning bracket loosing Child Benefit will not lose as much as me and my family.

8.  I sincerely hope the Government reconsiders time limiting ESA It's punishing the most vulnerable in society who face the harshest conditions to return to a non-existent jobs market.

April 2011

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Prepared 26 July 2011