Supplementary written evidence submitted
by Elina Rigler |
ESA18 MAY 2011 AND
8 JUNE 2011
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
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
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.