‘Bizarre’ figures raise fears over ministers’ plans for ESA


The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has sparked new concerns after releasing “bizarre” figures that suggest ministers plan to cut the number of people eligible for out-of-work disability benefits by a third in 2017-18.

The statistics were provided by employment minister Priti Patel in a written response to a question from Labour MP Barry Sheerman.

Sheerman had asked for the department’s forecasts for the number of employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants it expected to find “unfit to work” in the next five years.

Patel told him that the number of new ESA claimants DWP expects to classify as unfit to work would be 350, 000 this year, 450,000 in 2016-17, but then 300,000 for each of the following three years.

Since ESA was launched by the Labour government in the autumn of 2008, the highest number of claimants to be found not fit for work in a single month is 31,000, in November 2014, although that figure will be higher once successful appeals are taken into account.

This suggests the government thinks the number of claimants who will be found eligible for ESA will continue to rise through 2016 and into 2017, before plunging by one-third in 2017-18.

One possible explanation for the predicted sharp fall in 2017-18 is that DWP believes its plan to scrap the extra financial support given to people in the ESA work-related activity group (WRAG) – which at current rates would see weekly payments fall from about £102 a week to £73 – will persuade tens of thousands of disabled people not to bother applying for ESA.

Another possible explanation is that ministers plan to tighten ESA eligibility between now and 2017.

Disabled experts who have campaigned for years to persuade ministers to scrap the controversial ESA system – and its eligibility test, the work capability assessment (WCA) – were left concerned and bemused by the figures.

Rick Burgess (pictured), co-founder of New Approach, which campaigns to replace the WCA, said the projections were “the latest in a long line of ‘predictions’ made by the DWP under IDS [work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith]that have been repeatedly proven to be wrong”.

He said: “This projection of ESA to drop in 2017-18 is another of his ‘guesses’ or ‘bets’ that his abusive and dishonest testing regime can force hundreds of thousands of people to become magically non-disabled and to find work.

“For activists and the advice sector it likely means he expects the 30 per cent WRAG cut to deter claims and the DWP testing and sanctions regime to become even more unfair to ensure people are refused placement in the support group or the means and peace of mind to appeal.”

Stef Benstead, the lead researcher for the Spartacus network on last year’s report into the failures of the system of sickness and disability support, said: “The numbers look bizarre. I cannot think of a good reason for such large changes in ESA outcomes.

“Either the [DWP] respondent has made a mistake, or the government has plans it hasn’t told us about for future changes to ESA.

“The government should tell disabled people how it came up with these figures, as without a reasonable explanation these figures are alarming.”

Maximus, the much-criticised US company now carrying out the assessments on behalf of the government, declined to return calls about the statistics.

DWP refused to comment.

  • User Ratings (19 Votes)
  • Christian Wilcox

    Part of it will be the Obesity crackdown they’re starting.

    Part of it will be the W.R.A.G cut.

  • Scream Nevermore

    They probably anticipate that a fair number of us will be dead by then.

  • sandra

    They treat people in wrag like jobseekers just now,I think they will just change the name of wrag to jobseekers but the wrag group will still have diffirent rules but will officially come under jobseekers to make look like the public were right and most people were faking it.

    • Dean Stockton

      I’ve been in WRAG over 5 years and haven’t had a WFI since Feb 2013 even though I was reassessed in 2013 maybe it’s because I sent the ESA50 back blank and told them I would see them in court after sending them a copy of page 2 of the ESA72 from the previous ESA paper assessment which clearly stated WE WILL CONTACT YOU AGAIN ON OR AFTER (DATE) WHERE YOU MAY BE ASKED TO FILL IN ANOTHER ESA50. I told the DWP that one phrase would win the court case and would be the only evidence I would need to provide, the next year they changed the ESA72 removing the above phrase, but you can still get a reassessment time by asking in an SAR for a date on or after you would be contacted again. Baring in mind that if you see the phrase unfit for work in the longer term and a date less than 2 years after the report date that they are acting fraudulently as the term unfit for work in the longer term means at least 2 years as can be seen by freedom of information requests asked to the DWP.

  • srgc2731

    Healed by ATOS 2013
    rECIEVE £21 esa WRAG


    Having won my apeal i now find myself in the ” WRAG ”

    I believe if the DM had investigated the data used at the Tribunal then it would be clear i should be in the Support group
    Having several Muscoskeletal conditions all asociated with chronic pain
    All classed as debilitating and degenerative

    with no expectation of improvement
    Fused Spine with degenerative disc disease at all levels of the lumbar a#spine along with plate irregularity “scheuermanns ” disease
    Scheuermann’s disease is notorious for causing lower and mid-level back and neck pain, which can be severe and disabling. The sufferer may feel pain at the apex of the curve, which can be aggravated by physical activity and by periods of standing or sitting;
    this can have a significantly detrimental effect to their lives as their level of activity is curbed by their condition

    Hip “Perthes Disease
    Common symptoms include hip, knee (hip pathology can refer pain to a normal knee), or groin pain, exacerbated by hip/leg movement, especially internal hip rotation (twisting the leg toward the center of the body). The pain is moderate to severe, at times rendering the patient unable to stand. There is a reduced range of motion at the hip joint, and there is a painful or antalgic gait. There may be atrophy of thigh muscles from disuse and an inequality of leg length. In some cases, some activity can cause severe irritation or inflammation of the damaged area including standing, walking, running, kneeling, or stooping repeatedly for an extended period of time. In cases exhibiting severe femoral osteonecrosis, pain is usually a chronic, throbbing sensation exacerbated by activity
    Also have refered pain and problems with the other leg due to altered walking patterns
    Arthritis and cartlidge
    Have developed problems in both kneecaps over the last year which are not helped by any increased mobility

    that apart i believe that the following regulation should be taken into consideration
    The Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008
    Exceptional circumstances Regulation 29
    29. (1) A claimant who does not have limited capability for work as determined in accordance with the limited capability for work assessment is to be treated as having limited capability for work if paragraph (2) applies to the claimant.
    (2) This paragraph applies if—
    (b)the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and, by reasons of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work.
    However before any reconsideration can be done by you i require the following documentation in-order to ascertain on what evidence you used to make your origional decision
    1) A Statement of Reasons
    2) A copy of the completed E113 form
    3) A copy of your ESA85