ESA/WCA: the gap between official claims and lived reality

By Press Office
March 8, 2013

The #ESAendgame online campaign to collect comments and stories concerning people’s experience of Employment and Support Allowance and the qualifying Work Capacity Assessment (WCA), initiated by disability researcher and activist Sue Marsh, has produced around 430 submissions so far (

The aim is to achieve nearer a thousand submissions. This material should be read in connection with the Spartacus ‘People’s Review of the WCA’ ( and Michael Meacher MP’s speech in the House of Commons in the Business Committee WCA debate on 17 January 2013.

What follows below is the third tranche of excerpted #ESAendgame feedback from Twitter by Ekklesia [see below for links to the first two]. Again, this includes personal experiences and data, remarks about the functioning of WCA/ESA from the ‘user’ end, and links to independent analysis and media commentary.

While public attention has been diverted from the details about benefits (, from the overall architecture of welfare reform ( and from the lack of consonance between government claims and tangible experience (passim), it is clear that those living at the sharp end are all too aware about what is going on beneath layers of bureaucracy and government / DWP justification.

The damaging health impact on people who are being made to feel exposed and vulnerable (physically, emotionally, socially and economically) by what are proving to be a flawed, unsympathetic and evidence-deficient processes is also painfully clear.

Here is more of what #ESAendgame is revealing:

“If the DWP are trying to get disabled ‘back to work’, how come in a 40+ page form, there is not one question about qualifications or work experience?”

“A month to appeal from date of letter? Took a week to arrive. It can take eight working days for appeal to be registered. How long is a month?”

“ATOS and DWP: Can you please stop sending my friend threatening letters through the post.”

“Helping my partner look for a better paid job because my benefits keep being stopped and we can't afford a basic life style.”

“I'm terrified of going anywhere anyway so the process just makes me feel worse.”

“If they'd only listen to experts.”

“I was fit and healthy, had a great career, which I loved. Out of the blue I had a grand mal seizure, then more seizures. I then came off my meds. Huge mistake. I had a bad GM seizure which left me with brain damage. Currently I'm having 3-4 seizures a week. ATOS found me fit for work. I'm on no benefit."

“DWP statistic busting continues. 73 per cent entitled in Incapacity Benefit to ESA 'conversion' cases, after 46 per cent appeal.”

“I have been placed in support group and receive nothing, but still had letter demanding details of my April pension upgrade.”

“Welfare from insurance companies was always Lord Freud's ESA end game.”

“ATOS system will just get worse.”

“New council tax payment will be the equivalent of one radiator per night. Oh, OK then… Hang on, I’ve already lost £280 per month, what else can I turn off?”

“So sick of hearing them talk about all the support they give us... The reality is, they haven't even contacted me.”

“Won't [say] any more today. Feeling unbalanced physically and emotionally because of drug withdrawal symptoms. Stay strong.”

“I stare at the envelope wondering when I will have the strength to complete my appeal, and the clock ticks.”

“Comparing what they say to facts is often where it all falls down…”

“DWP's ESA reassessment programme in chaos?”

“Welfare reform: Where is our national conscience?”

“Too late. Have to send application and then send letter from psychologist. Benefits end next week.”

“ESA appeals nightmare confirmed.”

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

“Benefit bosses admit over half of people ruled fit to work ended up destitute.”

“I am sick and disabled, currently in a support group, but scared what the next brown envelope will bring.”

“If you're sick, the benefit you receive is not designed to provide more than a subsistence level of income.”

“ESA needs to change before it claims more lives.”

“Thirty-two die a week after failing the WCA for Employment and Support Allowance and being told they're fit for work.”

“Only came online to check messages and tidy things up. Can't cope right now. ESA adds extra stress, misery, worsens mental health.”

“Illness(es), tablets with side effects, resultant mental health issues: ESA/WCA doesn’t see [these] as valid too many times.”

“GPs need to be able to refer complex cases of sickness absence in the same way as they can seek specialist healthcare advice for their patients.”

“It sickens me how much sicker sick people are made to feel at the hands of a very sick world” (journalist and commentator Sonia Poulton).

“The truth that is being kept from us: The human cost of WCA and ESA.”

“The biggest lie is that ‘Those who need support most will not be affected’”…

Read the first and second selections of responses here: and here:


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.