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

Supplementary written evidence submitted by Elina Rigler


Listening to the above evidence sessions one might get the impression that ESA is a wonderful system - though perhaps requiring one or two tweaks - and that the main problem is that we IB claimants don't realise what a life-enhancing experience it will be for us.

I would like to correct a couple of misunderstandings of our so-called misperceptions. First, according to some participants in these sessions, we claimants mistakenly think that the WCA is a medical assessment, although it is intended to measure functionality.

In reality, many of us do understand that the WCA is a functional assessment; we are critical of it because it focuses on simple, isolated tasks and has little bearing on an individual's ability to work in the real world. We are dreading the reassessment because we know that the WCA deems fit for work many who, because of the nature of their impairment, have no realistic prospect of finding work in the mainstream labour market.

Second, some committee members and Professor Harrington appeared not to understand why claimants regard being found fit for work as "failing".

The financial aspect is of course important: losing £30 a week is a very big deal for those who are already living in poverty. (I for one don't understand why "helping" people into work has to involve cutting their benefits.) But even more importantly, we are worried because we know that there aren't enough jobs for able-bodied people, let alone for those with special employment needs.

It is all very well to keep repeating the mantra that with the right support and encouragement people can move into work. Yes, in theory and in an ideal world. The reality is, however, that they are more likely to end up languishing on the dole or fall out of the system entirely.

Sick and disabled people resent being treated as passive and idle victims of the benefit system or as children who don't realise what is good for them. Many of us know full well whether or not we are fit for work because we have tried and failed to work or tried and failed to find suitable employment. We also know from personal experience that few employers are willing to take on anyone with health problems and that offering tailored support to claimants will not by magic create jobs tailored to their needs.

This is my message for the DWP: please stop patronising us and telling us about the financial, social and health benefits of work and trumpeting your shiny new Work Programme. Show us the evidence that most of those thrown onto JSA are able to find and sustain suitable employment and we may start seeing the positive side of being found fit for work. And show us the evidence that ESA is improving people's lives and we will stop criticising it.

June 2011

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Prepared 26 July 2011