Citizens Advice is struggling to cope with what it describes as an “​unpreced​ented”​ rise in the number of employment and support allowance (ESA) appeals reports the Guardian. Figures published by Citizens Advice show an increase of 71%, more than 97,000, requests for advice about ESA between January and March this year. For the same period Citizens Advice Bureaux recorded an increase of 82% in requests for help with ESA appeals.

Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, said “​This is a very worrying trend. ESA is giving rise to a far higher volume of appeals than any other benefit. As well as the huge additional stress and hardship this causes our clients, it also puts severe pressure on our already over-stretched service. Our specialist advisers in bureaux are being overwhelmed by the volume of these complex and time-consuming appeals.

Things are likely to get even worse when sweeping legal aid cuts come into force next spring. These will have a devastating impact on our capacity to provide specialist welfare benefits advice and casework –​ just as the biggest shake-up in the benefits system since the welfare state came into being begins to get underway.”​

Previous research undertaken by Citizens Advice found serious inaccuracies in medical assessment reports for ESA and highlighted the importance such reports will have when universal credit (UC) is introduced and when personal independence payment (PIP) replaces disability living allowance (DLA). Commenting on the quality of medical assessment reports, Gillian Guy said “​Getting medical assessment reports right first time is absolutely essential to ensuring that seriously ill and disabled people entitled to support through the benefits system get that support when they need it, and that it is the right kind of support to meet their needs.

It’​s vital that regular independent monitoring of the accuracy of reports is put in place before medical reports are given an even more central role in deciding who is entitled to disability benefits and how much help they get.”​

The Guardian reports that Chris Grayling, employment minister expressed no surprise at the rise in the numbers of enquiries about ESA to Citizens Advice Bureaux. He commented only that “​We are determined to ensure the process is fit for purpose, which is why we are implementing all the recommendations made by our independent reviewer to make it better and fairer.”​

The Guardian report can be found here and the Citizens Advice report can be found here. 800x600 Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE Microsoft​InternetE​xplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNorma​lTable {mso-style-name:"​Table Normal"​; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes;​ mso-style-priority​:99;​ mso-style-parent:"​"​; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;​ mso-para-margin:0cm;​ mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;​ mso-paginati​on:widow-orphan;​ font-size:10.0pt;​ font-family:"​Calibri"​,"​sans-serif"​; mso-bidi-font-family:"​Times New Roman"​;}


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