Just checking out Employment and Support Allowance. As I’ll become a pensioner in October, I’ll be extremely unlucky to get sucked into it, changing from Incapacity Benefit to ESA, but it’s not impossible.
Interestingly, unlike the IB50 form, the ESA form has no questions relating to disability at all. You may, apparently, be sent a medical questionnaire. Equally, you may not. The whole affair rests on the medical assessment – effectively, a total stranger’s opinion of how you are affected, not your opinion, as with IB and DLA. OK, both of those may stick you with a medical examination, but they’re not totally dependent upon it.
You are asked for brief details of your illness/disability, but unlike IB, no medication info is required – the degree of medication, of course, being a good indicator of the severity of your condition. No good complaining of severe pain, for example, if all you’re taking is Paracetamol.
You have to attend the medical assessment – there is, as far as I can see, no option for them to come to you, as with DLA and IB – and that’s entirely wrong. They are dealing with sick and/or disabled people, and their should be a degree of flexibility, but there isn’t.
This item, from the Notes, says it all:-
What if I cannot attend the medical assessment?
It is very important you make every effort to attend. It may delay your benefit if you do not tell us in advance that you cannot go.
That says, quite clearly, that they don’t understand the realities of life for the sick and disabled or – more likely – they just don’t care. For example, I never know in advance how well I’m going to be on any given day. It’s quite impossible for me to plan ahead, and I’ve lost count of the number of hospital appointments I’ve missed, as well as appointments with my GP, because I’ve been too ill to attend. Yet the DWP trolls expect it to be different for them, just because they say so. If you are in the same position, I suggest that you make it quite clear, in writing, that your condition is subject to unpredictable variations, and while you’d like too, it if often no possible for you to keep appointments, for reasons outside your control.
The application form, too, doesn’t apply to claimants moving from IB to ESA, just to new claimants (there’s a guide to claiming here and it’s clear that the medical examination is a minefield of assumptions on behalf of the assessor). To get the full guide (65 pages), you have to be a member of benefitsandwork.co.uk (£18.95 a year, or maybe £18.55 – both figures appear on different pages), which is where the above link takes you, but they have a 7-page sample for you to download, which give a good indication of what you are up against, and it’s not cheering!
What the process is for moving from IB to ESA is, though, I have been unable to find out. Do they, at some point, just start paying us the applicable rate of ESA instead of IB? Or will we have to re-apply?
How many guesses would you like?