Tuesday 15 March 2011

The ESA Quiz

I know it's easy to just become noise. "In the third quarter of the blah ESA was tripled by the WCA DLA blah until 2002 when the IB, CA blah......."

You've all been very patient, but it's a bit like trying to learn Russian at night school. At some point you wonder exactly when you stopped having fun. 

So, today, I bring you, the great ESA quiz. ESA is Employment Support Allowance. It used to be Incapacity benefit and before that it was "on the sick".

Yep, we're the "scroungers". The one's that became too ill or disabled to work. The one's that pretend to limp before setting off for a nice game of golf. We all know one don't we? May be two or three. Lazy feckers who don't want to work so invent imaginary bad backs and find it incredibly hard to breath when a DWP agent walks into the room.  We've seen them on Saints and Sinners, we've read about them in the Daily Mail. Our brother's girlfriend's boss always lives next door to one..... Don't they? See how accurate YOUR "facts" are.

Q1 How many people claim ESA in the UK?
A) 2.6 Million     B) 4.7 million     C) Everyone except me and my hard working family. 
Answer : 2.6 Million. This figure has not risen since 1997

Q2 How much is ESA per month?
A) £388.45     B) £732.80     C) £3,650.12 including a company car and a free house. 
Answer : £388.45 per month. If your partner works, you get no other benefits at all. 

Q3 Is ESA means tested?
A) Yes     B) No     C) Don't be silly. Millionaires can claim it. 
Answer : Yes. If you have more than £16,000 in savings, you do not qualify for ESA
If your partner works, you too will not qualify for ESA for more than a year. 

Q4) ESA is means tested. How much can a couple earn before they lose all ESA?
A) £26,000 pa     B) £16,000 pa     C) £7,500 pa
Answer : If household income is above £7,500 pa, you will lose all ESA after a year. 

Q5) What is the rate of ESA fraud according to the governments own figures?
A) 0.5%     B) 15%     C) 93%
Answer : 0.5%, around 13,000 people. 

Q6) How many people do you think are really fit for work but claim ESA instead?
A) 9%     B) 43%     C) 93%
Answer : If fraud is 0.5%, one would imagine the % losing their benefits would be around 0.5%, but in fact, the government are forcing 93% of previous claimants into work. 40% of cases go to appeal with up to 70% of the original decisions overturned.

Q7) Is ESA easy to get?
A) Quite, your doctor just signs you off. 
B) Yes! Anyone can get it, they just tell the DWP their back hurts. 
C) No, you must fill in a 40 page form and attend a harsh face to face medical.
Answer : C) Almost no-one (just 7%) qualifies for ESA on a long term basis.

Q8) What costs more :
A) Scroungers on the Sick     B) Tax avoidance     C) Bankers
Answer : C) Bankers cost us £1.4 Trillion, Tax Avoidance costs around 40 Billion per year, ESA is 12 Billion

Q9) Can you work and claim ESA?
A) No     B) Sometimes     C) No, but they all do!!
Answer : A) No. ESA is an out of work benefit. though some very limited "permitted work" can be arranged with the agreement of the DWP

Q10 Do you believe we should pay ESA to those who are genuinely sick?
A) Yes, of course     B) Maybe     C) No! Survival of the fittest, the weak should live in workhouses
Answer : A) I have never met anyone who says they don't believe we should pay benefits to those who are genuinely sick. Odd then that we're standing by unconcerned as up to 2.4 million people out of 2.6 million have ESA taken away.

So then, how did you do? 10 out of 10? Thought not. There are answers to this quiz that shocked me and this is what I do!!

**What can you do to help today? This is a light-hearted bit of fun. Please send it to the most rabid right wing, Daily Mail reading, stereotype-abuser you can think of. We will never break these myths down unless we challenge them. (Obviously remove this comment first of they might not be very happy ;)  )
As ever, click on the Twitter and Facebook buttons to share, or link to other sites, thanks. 


  1. Sue
    I wracked my brains, difficult at this hour, but I don't know any right wingers, even among all those Tory councillors I used to have to put up with when I was a councillor.
    This house is a bigot free zone and I don't read the comments under news articles on the net any more.

    So I don't know who to whom I should send it. Actually, I will send it to Steve Webb and other party colleagues - it could improve their education.

  2. Howard - Good to see you!

    Actually joking aside, sending it to Lib Dems and Cons is the most important thing. We must win enough hearts and minds (and ultimately parliament votes) to get rid of the worst elements of the Welfare Bill.

    It WON'T be defeated, I'm sure, but time limiting ESA will act as a disincentive to working families, means testing it a 5k is just silly.

    Surely they WANT to know about these things before it all blows up in their faces???

  3. This is great but is there any chance of some sources for the figures?

  4. Anonymous - they're all DWP figures. I had to work out No.10 myself as no figures exist.
    Based on current rate of only 7% going into support group as per DWP figures.

    Do you need links?

  5. I'm excited to send this out to a few choice rightwing ravers but I know the inevitable response will be where do these figures come from? If you have any links that would be great. It is always nice to take a look at the source material rather than just accept something as fact.

    1. Sue will back me up on this, but, the figures are those published by the DWP, not the ones dreamt up by Iain Duncan Smith.

      The figures that the DWP ministers spout seem, in he main, to be made up, the ones that they publish have to be the truth and verifiable.

      Beware of the demon percentage sign, however, one of the few accurate figures that IDS has used is that of Benefits rising by 20% while Public Sector wages rose by 13%. The problem comes that 20% of £59 is only £11 a week where 13% of £494 is £65 who's getting the bigger rise?

  6. This is great and I did actually get ten out of ten, but may I suggest drawing attention to the two types of ESA?

    Income based ESA still exists and people like me who are currently on Income Support with an Incapacity top up will (hopefully) go across to Income based ESA. We are the people who have never been well enough to contribute NI and claim Incapacity Benefit (as was).

    We currently get a few perks like free prescriptions and qualify for help from certain charities (such the Blue Cross) that we will probably lose when we go to ESA as no distinction is being drawn between the two groups anymore. If this happens, I will probably have to restrict my use of prescriptions and a friend will have to give up the dog she relies on to help her get out of the house as she cannot afford vet care anymore.

    Not quite as egregious as the income loss you highlighted yesterday, but another attack on the sick and vulnerable all the same and an easy one to miss in the maelstrom of lies, changes, myths and sheer complications that are being peddled about benefits these days.

  7. Duly shared. But as others have already said, we don't tend to knowingly mix with rabid Mail readers. But sharing and making a big (digital) fuss is essential. Thanks for the research - I learnt a thing or two myself even though I've been ill for over a year and am an ESA claimant who got through the WCA. My left-leaning friends will also realise they didn't know as much as they thought. Information is power to defeat the bigots. Maybe not in parliament, but we can aim at hearts and minds.

  8. Is it a shameless plug to mention I have some sourced figures on my blog?

    Anyway, the National Autistic Society is holding a lobby in London tomorrow at Portcullis House and invited me and a lot of others who responded to a survey they sent out about DLA. They disagree with the Coalition plans for DLA and want Autistic adults, parents and carers to give the horrifying facts about what would happen without it.

    I'm expecting a few of the usual lines to be trotted out and the main one I remember is the '30% rise in DLA claims in the last decade' one which I'm confident I can shoot down in ten seconds(second shameless plug: see my blog) but are there any others? I don't want to get caught by surprise on something really inane.

  9. The usual ones, Mason:

    The government feels that there is an "overlap" with local services and therefore scalebacks with DLA will not allow for any major hardship. Kindly point out that councils have cut back care plans severely: only granting care plans for "critical" people who would be placed in a care home without a care plan are being given any support. Also point out that in the past year and a half over 2500 special schools for autistic people were closed and autistic children are being shoehorned into mainstream schools with little support or further education or training. Point out that for severely autistic people "just take the bus" is NOT an option - but councils are also having to cut their special needs transport to schools in order to try and make some savings, leaving parents and carers to try and find ways to transport autistic people to school, university or outings without distress or meltdowns. Hence transport funding for mobility is very important to the ASD community.

    Let them know in no kind terms that I have just had to make the decision to give primary custody of my autistic son over to his father as I have received no support from Social Services, the current mainstream placement is so stressful for my son that his behaviour has broken down "beyond recovery", and my own condition has deteriorated to the point I am housebound. There are no special schools for autism left in my entire county as these were all closed last year. There is no NAS unit in my area either, and no activities for autistic children between the ages of 5 and 10 years of age. The overlap is completely nonexistent - and I certainly don't appreciate being considered "unsustainable" now that I am no longer able to work.

    I could go on...but I'll leave that there before I blow a seam again.

  10. I would also point out that ESA in the assessment phase is actually £261.80 every 4 weeks and as most people don't get assessed within the 3 month time limit, many have to live on this for several months.
    I don't know how to post a comment under anything other 'anonymous'. Sorry. Shirley, Leeds

  11. I have noticed that whenever Incapacity Benefits (including ESA) are discussed on websites and forums, somebody always pipes up with the assertion that the number of claimants rose significantly under Labour.

    But as Sue says, there were around 2.6 million Incapacity Benefit claimants in 1997 and there are around 2.6 million claimants of ESA or Incapacity Benefit today.

    But ask someone in the street if the number of Incapacity claimants rose under Labour, and most would say "of course! Everyone knows that!"

  12. Really great comments thread today guys thank you.

    First, plug away Mason - I'm not someone who minds at all.
    Possibly unintentionally, you wrote something that broke my heart: "I don't want to get caught by surprise on something really inane." I'm delighted and proud that your attending the lobby but your comment shows how very distressing anything unexpected or surprising can be if you're autistic. That you can be eloquent and informed and attend should shame the people you will be "lobbying"

    Oyas Daughter - can that really be right? 2500 SCHOOLS? Is that not places? That's astonishing!! The rest of your post is exactly what gets me up every morning and keeps me glued to my laptop til bed. I just can't bear injustice and there can't be any greater injustices than I read EVERY DAY on my comments thread and others.

    Gherkin Girl - To be honest it's already getting way beyond most attention spans to even explain the intricacies of ESA and DLA. A good friend and campaigner today asked me a question about ESA that told me she didn't even know about the IB to ESA migration!! And she is severely epileptic, her son is her carer and she is a great supporter of my blog!! The job of just educating the public about disability benefits is so vast, I've had to leave out lots of smaller anomalies that alone are shocking. For example, on IB I get an age allowance - until I'm 49 I get an extra 13.80 falling to 5.40 a week to acknowledge that this is the most expensive period of my life.
    Under ESA this won't happen. My ESA will be frozen until the ESA figure matches the IB figure - probably 4-6 YEARS!!! This little change will cost sick and disabled people (on a back of envelope calculation) another 2-3 billion over this parliament!!!!
    (Taking an average of £9 per week)This is the BIG PROBLEM with all of these changes. The people designing them don't have a single tiny little clue what £9 a week means to us. For them, it's a tip or a Starbucks. They just have no concept whatever what these "small" changes add up to and what they will do to us.

    I plan to do a post just on these "small" shocking details and try to give a rough total for how much all these "small" changes add up to for us.

    ANYONE WHO CAN LEAVE SUGGESTIONS OF THEIR OWN (PREFERABLE WITH LINKS AND FIGURES, WOULD BE HELPING ME ENORMOUSLY. I barely get time to keep up with the RTs and messages and emails, let alone research.

  13. Anyone who claims JSA after being rejected for ESA should be prosecuted for trying to claim JSA while incapable of work. This is the reason Labour introduced ESA in the first place.

    1. And for those of us who have been told to claim JSA because of the lies told about us by Atos?

  14. Nope, Sue, it was schools; it was done, sadly, under the last Labour government by a minister who caused a scandal as she pushed the whole "Inclusion" thing...then turned round and had her own child go through to a special school as mainstream "didn't fit her needs". So now as I said the ASD schools for our area all closed last year even though there was much protesting and lobbying. Meh.

  15. Public Sector Enemy Number One15 March 2011 at 20:15

    Ok, I'm a DWP worker sticking his head above the parapet and hoping not to get shot... I work in a busy Dorset Jobcentre and my customers are those 25+ who've been out of work for 13 weeks or longer. Probably 60-70% of the one hundred or more people I see every week are evidently not fit for work and yet, in theory, it's my job to whip them through the same hoops as everybody else, persecute them, attempt to stop their benefits and generally shame them into applying for all manner of wholly unsuitable jobs that they're never going to be able to do. In reality, what I do is tell them the system sucks and advise them of ways they can stay beneath the radar, or suggest they sign off JSA and move onto ESA and do whatever I can to make the transition as trouble free as possible. On the other side of the office to me are the Pathways team, who deal with customers on ESA. We all know that over the coming months most of them will be forced to migrate over to the JSA bods like myself and we won't be able to cope with either the numbers or the particular problems that this customer group represents. The point of all this waffle is that the policy makers have embarked upon their catastrophic journey without consulting the frontline workers who, without exception in my experience, KNOW that the planned changes CANNOT work. I would advise people worried about a forced transition from ESA to JSA to be brave and try not to lose too much sleep about it...it's just not do-able in the real world, there'll be a horrible mess and people's lives will face some awful but shortlived disruption and then it'll be business as usual. Also, for those who face the indignity of having to venture into a jobcentre from time to time, please be assured - the majority of those who work in them are actually on your side, and have probably less faith in our political masters than you do, and just as much awareness as yourselves that all their vitriolic guff about benefit scroungers and feckless layabouts is simply empty, venomous scapegoating...

  16. Public Sector Enemy no 1:

    At my first visit to JobCentre Plus recently to see an ESA 'advisor', he was actually saying much the same as you. I wasn't in a good state to take much in, but I do know you are pawns in a grotesque political game. Except we're ill, not stupid (if you'll all pardon the expression).

    It's the WCA and the Atos horror stories that really gets my venom and makes me so, so angry at the injustice and disinterest.

    And this is speaking as someone who's devoted their working life to public service (a soon-to-be-ex-public sector worker due to serious ill health) but reluctantly experiencing the benefits system for the first time.

  17. Public Sector Enemy No1

    Lol, you're definitely not the enemy. More of a James Bond style insider. In fact I think your comment is such an important perspective we never hear, I'd love to give it a post all of it's own.

    We know what you say is true, you know what you say is true and the more of us that say it, the less chance that it blows up quite as spectacularly when the changes come.

    It was also very good of you to reassure people and I think you're probably right. Osborne will realise at some point that this will give him unemployment figures of over 5 million and they'll have to think again.

  18. About the Incapacity Benefit figures, the actual number as of May 2010 is 1.9 million claimants according to the DWP tabulation tool, not 2.6 million. This was also on a steep downward trend at the time so it's going to be a lot lower than that when updated table data is released. What caused that steep downward trend? They closed new IB claims. That's it, that is what caused IB to literally dive.

    This screws heavily with the claim that people are living their entire lives on the sick and puts some context to the 'research' done that said most people who claim IB will die on it.

    Turns out the reason why was because they HAVE actually been dying quite soon after they started claiming, unless there are many other reasons why claims were short-term that they didn't think to tell us about.

    The 2.6 million figure comes from lumping the figures for IB and ESA together, which the DWP did in a recent press release which I'm pretty sure breaks the rules on public money being used for overtly political messages. This is the fifth time I've written this so I'm posting now before I preview and decide to edit something and lose it all again.

  19. That's right Mason.
    There's so much to explain.

  20. You can in fact work whilst claiming ESA (C), doing something called permitted work where you can earn up to £95 a week or up to sixteen hours a week (neither condition can be breached) for a year.

  21. Rumbold - I thought they stopped permitted work?

  22. Permitted Work is still allowed for those on permanent Incapacity Benefit (such as my wife, an MS sufferer who enjoyed a 6 month remission last year and did some Permitted Work in my business during it), but not allowed for ESA AFAIK.

    They tightened up the rules for ESA and left IB alone as they know as well as anyone here that the bullshit about "eternal IB claimants" is, in fact, rawest bullshit.

  23. Ok in nine hours I have to meet with my support worker at Leeds station and get the train to London, so will need to actually get to sleep soon. Looking at the DWP press material on DLA, some of the other canards about DLA(from Maria Miller, who else) were the one about DLA being a 'barrier to work' with no explanation for how this is the case and the other one was that DLA is the second most expensive working-age benefit and this year will cost an estimated 12 billion pounds.

    It is if you include pensioners, who make up over 37% of the claimants for DLA. Chop 37% off £12 billion and then factor in that they will tend to be higher-rate claimants and DLA very quickly falls behind the ESA/IB combo, Income Support and maybe even JSA.

    A last bit of cramming before I have to go regurgitate a fact-torrent at Portcullis House tomorrow.

  24. Sorry to go on about this permitted work thing but I didn't know there was permanent IB either - can you tell me about it

  25. Mason - The DWP research on DLA is here http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2009-2010/rrep648.pdf

    It's the most astonishing document. They basically months trying to work out exactly what it could be that means those on DLA are less likely to work!!! I kid you not!!
    Then they go on to conclude that because claimants are less and less likely to work as time goes on, it must be the DLA trapping them!! In fact the report debunks this, but the government don't want to hear those bits.
    Of course, the worse your disability or illness, the more likely you will qualify for DLA, the less likely that you will work and the longer you will be unable to work, but it seems they genuinely did not consider this!!
    You seriously couldn't make it up!!
    I actually laughed all the way through it, though it may have been hysteria.
    Good Luck today!!! and thanks so much for going for all of us :))))

  26. Oya's daughter. I've never heard of it at all and a quick google shows nothing - can you send me a link? Who was this Labour woman? I amazed there were 2,500 autistic schools to begin with, never mind them all being closed.

  27. Before setting off I'm having a quick read of Sue's link and of the Benefit Integrity Review from 1995/96/97, which just so happens to be the review of DLA the Coalition says doesn't exist.

    The DLA research references that non-existent review quite early on. Assuming Maria Miller, Chris Grayling or Iain Duncan-Smith or any of their staff have read this document, then they knew the Benefit Integrity Project existed when they claimed it didn't.

    The BIP was however abandoned as a failure, despite re-assurances that it was not simply trying to root out fraud. Disability groups at the time disagreed and the thing that replaced it benefited from training the staff carrying it out better: http://www.cpag.org.uk/cro/wrb/wrb170/bip.htm

    Unlike on the chronically unfair BIP which still only managed to find 1.5% level of fraud and had to pad out justifications for stealing DLA away from claimants on the grounds of 'customer error'. Where have we heard that before?

  28. Glad you saw my comment before you set off Mason :)

  29. Sue: Here you go - it was Ruth Kelly who put the closures into motion and looking her up will reveal the move to close the schools which has been going on more and more steadily over the past five years.

    But then she had her child schooled in a private special needs school:


    Ironically (or not) Mr Cameron campaigned to say that inclusion had gone much too far in the wrong direction (as has said the primary education researcher who started inclusion in the first place) and he was going to re open schools for special needs. Of course, he's done a u-turn on that:


    Hence I don't really give a toss what party is in power; they only say what suits them when they're trying to score points against the other side, then conveniently forget everything when they're in power. They're all liars.

  30. Sue Marsh (apologies for the late response):

    Permitted work is still continuing for those on contributory ESA (and IB)- People on income related ESA and income support (on grounds of disability) have never been able to do it.

    I don't know what the work programme holds for permitted work. Hopefully it will continue in some form, as it is a lifeline for many people with serious conditions.

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