Claire’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Story by GlynnePowell


Claire’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Story

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Claire’s Story: Work Capability
Assessments Made My Mental
Health Problems Worse

Claire’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Story

I have been a sufferer of a panic disorder, anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, self
harming, insomnia and depression since 2002 but I cannot take medications
as I have reacted badly to them – allergic reactions and extreme worsening of
my symptoms – my psychiatrist has now said I should not try anymore
medications because it is too risky. I’ve been seeing the community mental
health team, and also a specialist at the hospital on and off since my
symptoms began. I was claiming income support as a single parent until 2010
but was called in to the jobcentre and informed that I was no longer entitled to
income support as my child was too old and so I was told that I had to claim
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

I attended an [Atos] medical assessment for ESA in 2010 and had to fight to
get a taxi approved because I have problems getting around due to my mental
health problems. I don’t remember much as I was traumatised by this
experience but the report said I was in the medical assessment for 16 minutes.
Upon reading the report it didn’t relate to me at all! My benefit was stopped
and I sent in the appeal but it took the department for Work and Pensions
(DWP) a month to reinstate my benefit at assessment rate – it took another 18
long and stressful months to get my appeal heard at tribunal and they gave me
enough points to get the full benefit.

Now that my ESA appeal was complete I was finally able to concentrate on
getting help and practice techniques from hospital for help with my medical
problems. The DWP put me in the work related group of ESA and the
jobcentre sent me to a private company called Ingeus. I had started to self
harm due to anxiety caused by attending appointments and through fear that
my benefits will stop if I do not attend. They have now given me non
mandatory appointments, but if I don’t attend I do still receive letters saying my
benefits will be affected and have to attend my appointments.

3 months after winning my ESA appeal I received a letter saying I needed to
attend another medical assessment in order to continue receiving benefits. I
phoned them to ask why I was being sent for a further assessment so soon
after winning at tribunal and was told its been 3 months and my health should
have improved by now. I had my second traumatising medical assessment
and again had to fight for a taxi to get me there. This time the medical
assessment was longer than before but upon receiving the result I found out
that I had failed it again! The jobcentre telephoned me and a DWP decision
maker overturned the decision in my favour as they admitted it had only been
a few months since my tribunal when it should have been at least 6 months
between assessments.

The company the Jobcentre sent me to – Ingeus – have not helped either. I
have been waiting to see the mental health specialist there but she has a long
waiting list. Also, at my appointments I am made to write CVs and covering
letters. At my last appointment I had to do a covering letter saying I am looking
for work 20 hours a week. I can just about manage to look after my son and
struggle with daily chores, I’m tired all the time and feel I am unable to work 20
hours a week. I was then given 20 envelopes and a list of addresses (which I
never chose) and told to get them ready to send out at my next appointment. I
have missed this appointment as the stress of doing the letters was too much
and made me more unwell. My benefit was stopped but when I phoned and
told them my appointments were not mandatory they reinstated my benefit a
few days later.

This whole process is not helping my mental health, it is making me worse!
Worrying what is going to happen every second of every day on top of dealing
with my mental health issues. I know I’m not the only one struggling with unfair
medical assessments and being forced into work before ready and able. Too
many people are in the same situation as I am and I have now decided to write
to my local mp in the hope for some changes, but have very little hope it will


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