The paperwork for benefits claims is overloading claimants who have to prove they have limited capabilities for work and work related activity yet, are expected to manage a huge amount of paperwork.

The picture above is the file containing paperwork for one Employment & Support Allowance Claimant, next to it is a standard pack of 500 sheets of A4 paper for a direct comparison. Her claim started in July 2010 but this claimant feels she has yet to be placed in the correct category for ESA. She has not received any benefit for a year because of the 365 day rule for Contributory Based ESA, as she was placed in the Work Related Activity Group. By 365 days a claim should be resolved but instead it has taken nearly 3 years so far.

Despite her not being paid any benefit for a year, the responsibility to prove she isn’t capable to work is on her, despite her condition. This puts her in a real catch 22 situation as she is not capable to manage her case, but she has to do her case to prove she is incapable. When it comes to Tribunals claimants are not automatically entitled to help and many have to rely on charities and organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureaux who are being swamped by the volume of people needing their help. This has led to them joining other charities and publishing a report entitled simply “Not Working” about how the benefit simply does not work and overloads anyone going through it.

It all rests on the claimants responsibility to collect their own evidence, but if they are too unwell to do this and too unwell to approach these charities they often find themselves not being able to cope with the demands the state places on them. ATOS Healthcare are notorious in the British press and they hold the contract to conduct the Workplace Capability Assessment on claimants. However their notoriety comes from a high volume of clients appealing their assessments as ATOS has found they do not have limited capabilities. Often this decision is then overruled at appeal or tribunal if the claimant (who is incapable of work) puts a strong enough case together.

It is a huge problem for claimants when ATOS deem them capable as they then have to gather and often commission there own medical reports in an attempt to show ATOS are wrong and they are in fact incapable of work. This gives them a huge workload and overloads the charities that might be helping them. Today we have heard the volume of requests is also overwhelming GP’s according to BMA Scotland in this BBC Article. But the responsibility for all of this rests with the claimant who are drowned in paperwork, desperate for written evidence from GP’s , Specialists and Healthcare Professionals. As said previously the claimants often have to commission these reports themselves, it is their responsibility. This can cost hundreds of pounds while cases go on for three years despite not being paid any benefit.

Often ESA claimants also have to apply for other benefits like Disability Allowance, Housing Benefit & Council Tax relief. With benefit reform sweeping through these areas claimants are often left with huge files, like the one shown in the picture, for each benefit they apply for. I would certainly agree with CAB when they say “Not Working” as its not working for anyone and the system is simply flawed.