But the flaws are deeper. It’s not just that the assessment is poorly applied or that it’s too strict, it’s that the whole system is set up on flawed principles.
Now is the time for us to say that. The cross party Work and Pensions Committee has opened a review into ESA, and they want people to submit evidence.
Spartacus will be responding, but as ever we don’t want to say what a few people think. We want to know what YOU think. You can help us by completing our survey here
It would seem that Atos will be removed from the equation. Both Labour and now the coaliton have pledged to remove the ESA contract from them by 2015. But will this help? Will it solve any of the problems? As we've warned repeatedly, it's very unlikely indeed.
Because the DWP control everything. From the "descriptors" that are used to measure ability to work to the details of the letters Atos send out. From the style of the WCA interviews to the accessibility (or not) of the centres they use.
Successive governments also did little or nothing to define the nature of "work" with a long term illness or disability. Can you work full-time? Can you work part-time? Is how much you can do work just about your health? Or is it also about whether you have to travel? If you have to commute to work does that reduce how many hours you can do? Do you have to interact with anyone in any way? That can be more tiring. Do you have to work at set times? Does fitting life around that and adding in extra rests if the set time coincides with a flare-up mean you can’t work as many hours as if you were allowed to work at hours of your choosing that vary from day to day and week to week?
If the work is pressured, can you guarantee to meet deadlines? Will attempting to do so mean pushing your body beyond its limits? Could that make your health worse in the long term?
None of that is captured in the descriptors, and it can’t be captured by points, because it is so dependent on so many factors.
Then there’s the issue of how the assessment should be made. One-off appointments with people specialised in neither your area of employment nor your health condition is known internationally to be a poor system.
There’s no time to build rapport or trust; there’s no opportunity to consider variation in ability over time; there’s no expertise at understanding you or what you can do; there’s no understanding of your specific situation and health.
Reading the international evidence on what works and what doesn’t and then comparing it to ESA is a bizarre experience. It’s like the government chose to do exactly the opposite of everything that was recommended. Get a specialist? No, leave it to anyone with basic medical training. Build a relationship of trust? No, build one of mutual distrust and sanctions. Build up an assessment over time? No, use a snap-shot. Look at wider factors? No, deliberately ignore them. Actually identify what job with what support can be done? No, be absolutely determined NOT to do that.
I know that it might seem like the government and others have all the evidence they could possibly need that ESA is failing. But it's their game we're playing and they make up the rules. Refusing to play it at all won't achieve any change at all.
All we can do is keep on submitting evidence, keep on speaking out, keep on explaining until they face the inevitable.
PLEASE. Don't give up now, now that we're so close. Take a little time to complete our short survey and make sure that YOUR voice is heard. Make sure that you can say "I was part of the resistance."
Click HERE to complete the survey and please, encourage others to complete it too by posting it on forums or websites that you use and sending it to as many contacts as you can.