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Figures released last week prove that the employment and support allowance assessment system is on the verge of complete collapse. The latest quarterly statistics show that just 28% of claims made between nine and twelve months ago have been assessed. The majority of claimants either get better before the DWP gets round to assessing them or are still waiting up to a year later to have their work capability assessment (WCA).

The March 2014 quarterly statistics cover claims made between April 2013 and June 2013. They show that 39% of ESA claimants got better – or possibly died – before the DWP managed to make a decision on their claim. An astonishing 33% are still waiting now for a medical and/or a decision.  This leaves just 28% who have gone through the full ESA assessment process.

The proportion kept waiting for an assesment that is supposed to happen within 13 weeks of claiming has risen dramatically in recent years. In the April 2012 statistical release just 16% of ESA claimants were still waiting to be assessed. In the April 2013 release, this figure had risen to 21%. So the current figure of 33% means that the proportion waiting for an assessment has almost doubled in just two years.

In fact, the figure is likely to have climbed still higher since June 2013 claims were made. It was only at the end of January 2014 that the DWP took the drastic step of halting all further ESA reassessment referrals to Atos in the hope of reducing the new claims backlog. So it is likely to be some time yet before the additional capacity begins to cut the numbers left in assessment limbo.

For claimants, the long wait for a decision is not just enormously stressful. It also means that the majority – who will eventually be assessed as eligible for ESA – are having to live on a very low level of benefits.  They have to manage without the additional work-related activity component or support component to which they are entitled after 13 weeks of claiming. Any payments owed by the DWP will eventually be made, but in the meantime their health may suffer and many claimants will run up high-interest debts or bank charges which they will struggle to pay off.

Another effect of the backlog is to make it virtually impossible to discern what percentage of recent claimants are getting an award of ESA and which group they are being placed in.

The figures in the March quarterly statistics show that of those assessed:

  • 31% were found fit for work.
  • 18% were placed in the work-related activity group
  • 51% were placed in the support group.

However, it is very likely that the first assessments completed are those that can be done on paper because of the seriousness of the claimant’s condition. This means that the proportion of support group claimants is likely to reduce once the outstanding claims have all been assessed.

In addition, these figures do not include the results of mandatory reconsiderations and appeals. So it is likely to be many more months, if not years, before we will actually know how many claimants from April to June 2013 were awarded ESA and what component they received.

What we do know for certain is that right now the delays in decision making are causing enormous anxiety and real hardship to tens of thousands of sick and disabled people.

You can download the latest quarterly statistics from this link.


#12 george wynne 2015-07-15 10:21
I went for my wca 10 days ago,today I checked my bank account and found that ESA had put money in my bank,I can only assume its backdated payment....I do not know if I have passed the WCA,Im hoping that because they have put money in my account I have been put in the support group or the WRAG.....anybod y got any thoughts on this??
#11 kate Drover 2015-01-05 19:57
Quoting chris french:
hi everyone, im new on here and is my first comment so bear with me. Im 61 years old and went onto esa dec 17th 2013 and as of today ive still not been assessed by atos or whoever is going to do it. does anyone know roughly how long they take to asses anyone? my doctor told me last week he is going to start issuing me with 2 month doctors notes now.

Hi Chris French and anyone who is interested, I have had my esa stopped now as it is over 365 days, I hadnt had my assessment done, i was financially suffering making my pain even worse, who should i turn to, decided to write by email to my local MP and she has ruffled things and I have now just had the assessment Dont know what the result will be, but nice to know that my MP was able to help. So I would advise anyone in this situation to make use of their local MP.
+1 #10 chris french 2014-12-21 20:35
hi everyone, im new on here and is my first comment so bear with me. Im 61 years old and went onto esa dec 17th 2013 and as of today ive still not been assessed by atos or whoever is going to do it. does anyone know roughly how long they take to asses anyone? my doctor told me last week he is going to start issuing me with 2 month doctors notes now.
#9 angela 2014-12-15 22:14
I have been waiting for my second medical for esa since Dec 2013 and have not heard if I am having one or not.
#8 leabrook 2014-04-05 00:07
I sent my esa50 back in November 2013 have heard nothing.
I have since sent letter in in February telling them of my change of circumstances, I know I owe them money now because of there over payments. I have now sent a second letter by recorded delivery. wonder how long till they reply as I want them to stop giving me to much money
#7 Marian 2014-04-04 21:02
Hi. Keep phoning and writing to the ESA. If you have a social worker or the citizens advice bureau ask them to write too on your behalf. Don't just wait for them to do the assessment.
But any letters you send to them send by registered post and get as many doctors reports as you can get your hands on even if you have to pay for them. Its horrible but you need to out smart them with written evidence even if it is really obvious that you have a disability.
I got my ESA into support group by doing this. But my medical was so stressful my blood pressure shot up and I have never had high blood pressure.:} The money was backdated and paid into my account I have never received a notification of my award!
+2 #6 morgandlin 2014-04-04 15:52
So, before appeal now, those found unfit for work is actually higher than the old IB figures?

Hundreds of millions spent, endless stress and complete chaos at the end?

Dismal Duncan strikes again......

When will Cameron get some bottle, and sack him?
+2 #5 Kells81 2014-04-02 14:08
It is a joke that we are going to lose out just because the system isn't fit for purpose. I just can't get my head around the fact that it is going to be ok for our benefits to stop after a year through no fault of our own. It is criminal.
#4 shimtoan 2014-04-02 03:41
with me, I got transferred straight over onto income-related. Hopefully the same will happen with you, but you might have to wait til the brown envelope comes through your door to find out
#3 tintack 2014-04-02 02:48
Does this meltdown in the system add further weight to the recent news concerning repeat assessments being deferred for two years?

I must admit I'm confused about this issue. The news article dated 26th February is very clear: it says that the deferment scans are due to be run "each month throughout the year" (which I'm assuming means up to and including December 2014); and that "each time, all (my emphasis) those due to be reassessed will be given a two year deferral".

However, having read forum threads on this topic , there are comments which seem to cast some doubt on this: namely, that in future months it might not be all those due to be reassessed that get the two year deferral, only some. Also, that depending on the state of the system, it's possible that the deferment process could stop in six months time - i.e., it might not be run "throughout the year". This is very confusing, as I'm not sure if I should believe the forum comments, or the February 26th news article! Does anyone have an answer?
#2 whothehellvotedtory 2014-04-01 22:17
What happens to people who were badly ill for 6 months or so, whilst waiting for assessment and then get better before being seen by atos. Can they get the Wrag/support group premium paid, on the basis that if they had been assessed in a timely manner they would have had a higher rate, and should not be disadvantaged by dwp hopelessness?
#1 Kells81 2014-04-01 15:19
I am one of the people in this situation. I have been waiting to be assessed for my esa since mid July. I am on contribution based esa which means I can only be on it for one year unless I am assessed and placed in the support group (which is the group I think I should be in). Do you know what will happen if it gets to the full year and I still haven't been assessed? Will I have my esa stopped and therefore be eligible for no benefits at all?

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