Citizen’s Advice drowning in ESA enquiries Citizens Advice is struggling to cope with what it describes as an “unprecedented” 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.” Guardian report.. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jul/04/advice-stretched-benefits?newsfeed=true Citizens Advice buckling under volume of calls over new benefits Already overstretched service pushed to breaking point by requests for assistance with incapacity benefit, says CAB Wednesday 4 July 2012 he chief executive of CAB said: 'Our specialist advisers are being overwhelmed.' Advice centres are struggling to cope with a surge in requests for help because of rising problems claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), the new sickness and disability benefit, according to Citizens Advice, which responded to 97,000 requests for support on this issue alone in the first three months of 2012. The charity said its "already overstretched service" had been put under severe pressure by the problems connected with ESA, and the controversial computer-led fitness test, the work capability assessment (WCA), which determines eligibility for the benefit. Problems connected with ESA were the fastest-growing area of need among people who consulted a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in the first quarter of this year, rising by 71% on the same quarter last year. There was an 82% rise in requests for help in mounting an appeal against a decision not to award the benefit. Around 38% of appeals against a refusal of the benefit are currently being overturned in the claimant's favour. The rise is explained in part by the fact that last April, all former incapacity benefit claimants began to be reassessed for the benefit, which was introduced for new claimants in 2008; the increase in demand for help will be linked to claimants' lack of familiarity with the new process. Overall requests for help with benefit claims rose by 6% in that period, making this the largest part of the charity's work, making up 34% of all advice given by CAB. The charity warned that its advisers were already struggling to cope with the huge rise in applications for support, and would find it extremely difficult to handle a further surge in requests for help next year when fundamental changes to the welfare system arrive with the introduction of Universal Credit. Gillian Guy, CAB 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 overstretched 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." Chris Grayling, the employment minister, said: "Given the comparison of the two periods, aA rise in contacts to the CAB is not surprising when you consider that along with all the new ESA claimants, we are reassessing 1.5 million people over three years. "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." Comments The government has withdrawn the YouTube video that the Ministry of Justice made to help people with the appeal system, apparently a certain DWP minister was unhappy with it. He was unhappy at it, amongst other things, stating that you were more likely to win an appeal if you appeared in person rather than have a paper review. The video had been reinstated after a FoI request about it but within a few days, after being viewed over 9000 times, it disappeared again. "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." With a 38% appeal success rate, it clearly is not fit for purpose ! As I understand it, approx 70% of appeals with legal representation, are successful. Any assessment that is only successful in 30% of the time, is in no way fit for purpose and people are suffering by the govts refusal to change the test for a medical one. So, the taxpayer has paid out 1.2 trillion pounds, yes trillion to bail out British banks (IMF estimate quited by Ian Bell in the Herald paper), which in turn have been guilty of fraud on a massive scale and pay themselves obscene bonuses ...while people with disabilities and chronic illness are forced to go through these inhumane, inaccurate, target and profit driven ESA tests, which have a high failure rate so therefore cost even more to put right. One of the few stalwart organisations there to help people, CABs, are now overwhelmed and facing cuts themselves. I have a suggestion, take every senior banker's bonus and donate it to the CABs. I have another even better suggestion, let GPs, who know their patients, provide the medical assessment for the ESA... before the idiots coming on about scroungers start; the amount we give people in ESA to "live on" is nothing compared to these huge amounts we have given to banks. They are the parasites, not the ill and disabled. Citizens Advice report.. http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/press_20120704 ESA – Citizens Advice Bureaux see sickness and disability benefit problems soar 4 July 2012 Citizens Advice Bureaux around the country are reporting a massive rise in problems with ESA (Employment and Support Allowance), the benefit paid to people who are too ill or disabled to work. New figures published today show that ESA advice shot up by an unprecedented 71 per cent - to more than 97,000problems - in the three months January to March 2012 compared with the same quarter last year. This makes ESA the fastest growing advice issue dealt with by CAB advisers, accelerating its steep rise each quarter since it was introduced in October 2008 to replace incapacity benefit for new claimants. The increase in ESA problems more than outweighs the drop in incapacity benefit problems. In the same three month period, bureaux recorded an 82 per cent increase in advice about appeals against ESA decisions. Over a quarter of all advice given about ESA concerns appeals.