The human cost of WCA and ESA: more #ESAendgame feedback

By Press Office
March 8, 2013

Yesterday Ekklesia published a large selection of online responses to disability research and activist Sue Marsh's call for people to kickstart the 'ESA End Game' campaign to challenge the iniquities around Employment and Support Allowance (

Today (7 March 2013) the avalanche of response on Twitter has continued. People have shared their (often heartrending) experiences, comments, articles and videos by the hundred, with tens of thousands reading them.

In addition, some 9,000 people read about #ESAendgame in under 24 hours on Sue's site ( It was the most shared and read article online in the UK yesterday, according to Ebuzzing News. There were several thousand more hits on Ekklesia, too. Over 330 people have now taken part in the consultation "What Most Needs to Change about Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Why?", with the number continuing to grow.

So, as a follow up to 'This is what ESA/WCA means for sick and disabled people' (, Here is more of what #ESAendgame is revealing:

"Which would you prefer in your final few weeks of life, shelf-stacking for benefits or starving to death and homeless?"

"A simple trip out to two shops for a Mother's Day gift stops me in my tracks and 'they' expect me to be able to work ."

"How can ATOS report. 'has a little sneeze at night' after repeated bouts of chronic sinusitis and anaphylactic shocks from allergies?"

"The work capability assessment is a genuine source of anguish."

"ATOS, DWP and the coalition government are punishing sick and disabled people for the failures of banks and the markets. It's time to stop."

"Disabled people would love to be healthy and working, yet the government's new medical test is sapping our energy."

"The cruellest part of ESA is the withdrawal of Legal Aid funding to prevent appeals succeeding."

"Why is health and income protection insurance company UNUM influencing UK welfare reform so much?"

"So many people's health has taken a dive for the worst [through] added stress."

"Claimants 'tricked out of benefits', says jobcentre whistleblower..." (YouTube)

"If you had mental health problem who'd best to assess you at ESA WCA, a physiotherapist or a mental health care professional?"

"ESA is based on flawed research carried out by UNUM Insurance, massive conflict of interest."

Liz Crow: "the experience of going through the tribunal made me wonder why the suicide rate isn't higher."

"ATOS 'forcing disability websites offline'. Something to hide, ATOS, government?" (YouTube)

"David Cameron: do you seriously think employers will give jobs to people with terminal illness and [chronic, severe] disabilities?"

"How many more Liam Barkers will there be?"

"Disabled people aren't exempt from the bedroom tax, and under Universal Credit pensioners won't be either."

"Going through my own ESA hell still. Nearly a year now. Health is now worse."

"I have contributed to society via charity/voluntary work since school..."

"After decades of working, a taxpayer, I suddenly became disabled. Now I live in dread. WRAG didn't cure me."

"Claimant who claims jobseeker’s allowance to be treated as not having limited capability for work."

"Work when you're sick, say new DWP guidelines..."

"Nurse makes apology after Atos forced her to trick disabled people out of benefits."

"The letter you send that doesn't arrive at ATOS, according to them: very convenient when it goes astray."

"How come some jumped up ATOS person knows more about my life than my consultant, my GP and me? I'm the poor sod trying to live it!"

"The DWP are withholding dated letters four weeks beyond decisions to deny people the right to appeal against ATOS decisions."

"'Fit to Work', yet - this week Ultrasound, next week CT scan, three blood tests in two weeks; rheumatology appointment coming soon."

"None of it's necessary. We choose to punish the vulnerable so as not to discomfort the rich and powerful."

"A key measure of any civilisation is how it treats the vulnerable. With the Employment and Support Allowance we're failing."

"ESA is where one is frightened of the postman, frightened of waking up tomorrow, frightened to go outside, frightened to carry on..."

"No idea how their prognosis can be 'unlikely to work in long term', yet they put me in *I* have to appeal?"

"'I won. ATOS criticised by judge in a written decision."

"Assessment: I like that the instructions on how to get there include walk for 11 minutes, train, walk for 15 minutes. With no distances."

"The coalition seem to be assuming that those of us not impacted won't care. We have to show them that we do."

"Oh, dear Dave. Now GPs have turned on you. Time for an exit strategy on the disabled, perhaps?" (Sonia Poulton, Daily Mail).

"The agony continues……. I did not get through on paper and medical evidence."

"Tragic. I think this country has a terrible 'I'm alright Jack' attitude at the moment. Needs to change."

"I got sick after 20 years hard work and paying tax. Now I'm denied the benefits I paid for, whilst millionaires get tax cuts."

"For my friends desperate to understand why I'm so enraged about Cameron's welfare policies."

"Well I have my voucher for the foodbank,which was shut today, so back tomorrow."

"Employment Support Allowance moves me to income based and makes me £70 a week worse off."

"Terrible treatment of those who are ill; people will never recover with all this extra stress."

"Fact 3.8 million spun through ESA since it started in 2008. By May 2012 > 38,140 < fewer claimants?"

"A succinct and graphic summary of the DWP's reassessment of the sick programme."

"Some people are too sick or too disabled to be able to hold down a job. They shouldn't be forced into one."

"Employment and Support Allowance, 60 per cent of decisions won at appeal were people awarded 0 points."

"Think about this. Why are they leaving the assessment phase data out of vital DWP statistics?"

"Work with, instead of against people."

"Charity’s concern for claimants told to work."

"More than half of people trying to claim a disability benefit in Preston have been deemed fit for work, figures reveal."

"The DWP Manila envelope of fear is [Iain Duncan Smith] legacy."

"Work capability assessments have ‘disproportionate effect' on the vulnerable."

"We need people to know what is happening to disabled people here in the UK."

"People are misinformed about benefits facts because of stigma and misrepresentation in the media."

"Sick and disabled people often need adjustments in order to work. Too often they are not there, making work impossible."

"ATOS say, 'Sickness is temporary, illness a behaviour, a personal choice, it’s all in their minds these people are fit to work'."

"What happens when the gap between rich and poor gets bigger is that people blame each other, not the wealthy."

"The prospect of being reassessed is humiliating and unnecessary."

"Oddly enough, my limbs aren't growing back when I'm called for re-assessment."

"For those wondering why I'm enraged about welfare policies, I am watching friend go through this hell."

"Employment and Support Allowance is not assessed fairly by the Work Capability Assessment."

"Iain Duncan Smith broke the law during disability cover-up."

"ESA appeals are endless..." (YouTube)

"Yesterday I was worried when I was outside in case people thought I was well. Today I can’t get out of my pyjamas."

"The most barbaric part of ESA is the withdrawal of benefits for those who dispute a DWP decision: Mandatory Reconsideration."

"If medical condition is lifelong, incurable and prognosis is you will worsen: How can you be found unfit one year and fit the next?"

"Once declare you 'fit to work', you are disqualified from any disability / accessibility rights."

"The worst thing about ESA is that it's unfair. Talk about broken Britain? That's not cricket."

"Eleven months waiting for a WCA tribunal, dark periods of stress..."

"We've known for a long time that ATOS and WCA are bad. But read this article to see just how bad."

"I do not have a story to share on #ESAendgame only sympathy for those distressed by the cuts."

"But it's fine, because cutting disabled people's benefits and driving them to an early grave will sort it."

"By far the biggest hurdle people face is getting placed into a WRAG group and then staying there."

"This is what the system is that people are protesting. [One that] has led to hardship, despair, fear and even death."

"Living with illness and/or disability is now about proving you are not lying, rather than respect for dealing with it."

"Now, many disabled fear a brown envelope, almost as a weapon of torture."

"So if they can't take into account of your primary disability what are they basing the decision on?"

"Having to tell a stranger you've never met when the last time was you lost bowel control. Dehumanising."

"The worst thing about ESA is being treated like a lying, thieving bastard, even when you've been declared unfit for work."

"It's all about justifying your existence the whole time..." Liz Crow interview (YouTube).

"Some days you wake up and you know it's going to be hard."

"Cameron benefited from #DLA as a millionaire but denies it to the poorest in society?"

"Someone I know said, 'I give up, I have so little and they begrudge me that, I'll end it all, less pain'."

"I’m sure libel law is a pressing concern for big name writers, but I’d be more supportive if they spoke out on #ESAendgame as well..."

"Morning spent reading through DWP correspondence regarding people's ESA claims. More convinced than ever that this must end."

"ESA is 'deeply and inherently flawed' and leads to abuses of people with learning difficulties and cancer."

"Designed to invoke fear into the sick and disabled, and to fail the criteria for the benefit."

"Why am I made to feel like a criminal, ATOS?"

"Good to see an MP challenging ESA in the House of Commons earlier today."

"ESA has been taken away from deserving people so as to reduce the welfare bill. And as a direct result, people have died."

"The underlying feeling of panic I feel every hour while waiting to go for my WCA."

"Great change can occur when many get involved! Will you?"

"Alone we whisper. Together we shout"...

Read the first selection of responses here:

Background: Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) replaced new claims for Incapacity Benefit and Income Support on the basis of incapacity for work for many claimants from 27 October 2008. Originally, claimants already receiving Incapacity Benefit, Income Support paid because of an illness or disability or Severe Disablement Allowance continued to receive those benefits as long as they remained eligible. However, the government announced in 2010 that these claimants would all be migrated to ESA between Spring 2011 and 2014. The old Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) has been replaced with a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The Department for Work and Pensions has contracted ATOS Healthcare, a healthcare company part of the global ATOS Origin company, to undertake medical assessments. A mass of evidence, including The People's Review of the WCA, is indicating conclusively that WCA/ESA is not fit for purpose as far as sick and disabled people are concerned.


Ekklesia is honoured and pleased to be working with disability researchers and campaigners in helping to link analysis with advocacy, political lobbying and media awareness-building around welfare, benefits and disability policy.

See also:

* This is what ESA/WCA means for sick and disabled people:

* People's Review of the WCA (We Are Spartacus):

* Briefing on Employment and Support Allowance (Amendment) Regulations 2012:

* Please sign the WOW (War on Welfare) petition:

* Sue Marsh's blog on Ekklesia:

* Disability issues on Ekklesia:

* Truth and lies about poverty, benefits and welfare (churches' report):

* Thousands of disabled and sick people will be hit by new ESA/WCA changes:

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.