Migration to ESA


Written Evidence submitted by Dr Sarah Campbell


I was a new ESA claimant in March 2010. My main problems with ESA have been as follows: inaccessible format of the ESA50 medical form, unnecessary reassessment just months after the initial decision and a basic error on ATOS’s part leading to removal of the benefit with no warning.

Inaccessible format of form:

The initial ESA50 form I am required to fill out has no accessible electronic format. I am unable to write and so have to ask someone else to fill it in, which given the personal nature of the questions is very embarrassing. It took 3 hours to fill in the first time with someone copying my answers I had typed out on my laptop. This would cost me £30 if I employed my carer to do so, and would take away 3 hours of care as social services do not provide for this sort of thing in my care package.

It is also a huge task for me to undertake. Everything else has to be put on hold. It took me over a month to fill out the form and was totally exhausting. I got into trouble from other government bodies for not filling in their forms as I was unable to do more than one at a time. For example I was late with my records for direct payments specifying care receipts and was told that care could be withdrawn as a result.

Reassessing support group claimants months after their award:

I was put into the support group without difficulty. However incredibly, despite having an incurable and progressive condition and despite having since been awarded indefinite both High rate care and mobility DLA, I was called for reassessment just 5 months later. It is impossible for my situation to have changed. All this can do is cause stress and problems for the claimant and waste time and money.

Withdrawal of benefit with no guarantee of reassessment due to ATOS error:

I was sent a new ESA50 to fill in. Although I sent the form in plenty of time, I received a P45 to be given to my new employer the day after it was due with no letter of explanation. I discovered that my ESA had been stopped with no warning. I eventually found that they claimed never to have received my form.

Rather than find out why, they had declared me fit to work and stopped my benefit from one day to the next. I am allowed to send in the form again and the decision maker can then decide if my reason for its lateness is satisfactory. If so my case will be reopened. If not, then I have to start a whole new claim. In the mean time I have no money coming in.

It is astonishing that non receipt of a form through no fault of their own means that a severely sick and disabled person can have their only source of income cut off and be declared fit to work with no guarantee that their reassessment will continue.

March 2011