Essential information for ESA claims, assessments and appeals


Essential Information for claims, assessments and appeals. 

There are three essential ideas to keep in mind when claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA) because of the nature of the ESA50 form, and the fact that Atos are seeking to deny benefits, and NOT assess disability: this will not be a fair investigation of your health issues.

This information needs to be shared widely so people are made aware of them, and can use them when claiming ESA or appealing.

These very helpful ideas are:

  •  Reliably, repeatedly and safely
  •  Exceptional circumstances – Regulations 25 and 31, 29 and 35
  •  Atos assessments and pitfalls – how they try to deceive you

1. Reliably, repeatedly and safely. 

‘Lord’ Fraud made this statement in the House of Lords:

“It must be possible for all the descriptors to be completed reliably, repeatedly and safely, otherwise the individual is considered unable to complete the activity.”

You might be able to go up three steps once – but if cannot do it “reliably, repeatedly and safely”, in Freud’s own words you CAN NOT do it at all.

Apply the phrase “reliably, repeatedly and safely” all through your ESA50 or appeal form, use it on each of the descriptors. Make sure you state clearly which activities you can not do reliably, repeatedly, safely and in a timely manner, because Atos will otherwise assume you are consistently capable of them all.

2. Exceptional Circumstances – Regulations 25 and 31 for Universal Credit and Regulations 29 and 35 for current and ongoing ESA claims and Contribution-based ESA.

Regulations 25 and 31 will replace the old Special Regulations 29 and 35 from April 2013 for Universal Credit. This is in preparation for the abolishment of income-related ESA only, and not contribution-based ESA.

However, the old Regulations 29 and 35 still apply to ongoing cases that are not yet affected by Universal Credit, and will remain in place indefinitely for all Contribution-based ESA. So there are two sets of Regulations in place for Exceptional Circumstances.

Income-based ESA will be replaced by Universal Credit, as (or if) it is rolled out, but there will be the same additional financial components added as we currently have for ESA – you will be able to claim either the work-related activity or the support component.

The contents of both sets of Regulations are essentially the same. They are applied in the same way. 25 and 29 are for those who are not capable of work, and would usually be placed in the Work-Related Activity Group, and 31 and 35 apply to those not capable of work-related activity, and would normally be placed in the Support Group.

Because of the tick-box nature of the ESA50 form, it is likely that people will fall below the number of points required to be declared incapable of work – it doesn’t take into account variable illnesses, mental illness, or the effects of having more than one illness.

However, the Exceptional Circumstances Regulations may cover us – they both state that the claimant should be found incapable of work (Regulation 29 for ongoing ESA claims, 29 for Universal Credit) or work-related activity (Regulation 35 for ongoing ESA claims, 31 for Universal Credit) if:

  • they have an uncontrolled or uncontrollable illness, or “the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and
  • by reason of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work/work-related activity”.

If you feel this is your circumstance, then we suggest adding something like this, where you put “other information” on the ESA50:

“If the scoring from my answers above is insufficient, then I believe applying the Exceptional Circumstances Regulations would be appropriate due to the severity and interaction of my conditions, and my inability to reliably, repeatedly and safely encounter work-related situations and/or safely perform work-related tasks.

I am taking all available and appropriate medication as prescribed by my doctor(s), and there are no reasonable adjustments to a workplace which would mitigate my medical condition(s).

Therefore I believe being placed in the Support Group would be appropriate, because there would be a serious substantial risk to mental and/or physical health if I were placed into a workplace environment or in the work-related activity group.”

You can word it yourself, of course. Please change the wording to fit your situation, delete “mental” or “physical” if appropriate, leave both in if necessary. If your illness cannot be controlled at all, or medication can’t be used to control it, add that instead.

Regulations 29 (for ESA) and 25 (for Universal Credit) cover people who might be put in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG), which has work-focused activities, sometimes it has workfare placements, and sanctions may apply, while Regulations 35 (for ESA) and 31 (for Universal Credit) cover people who are not well enough for any kind of work activity. This is for people who might be placed in the Support Group. There are no conditions placed on you for getting your ESA, such as workfare, if you have limited capability for work-related activity.

You can ask your doctor to support you with this claim, as it is stated in the regulations:

“(b) evidence (if any) from any health care professional or a hospital or similar institution, or such part of such evidence as constitutes the most reliable evidence available in the circumstances” may be presented to support your case.

Here are some links so you can download and print off documents to give to your GP to support your claim or appeal. You ought to submit copies of these to the DWP as soon as you can. (Make sure that you keep a copy).

In some cases, this may mean that your case will be reconsidered in your favour without having to wait for a tribunal hearing.

These templates are for ongoing ESA claims and Contribution-based ESA:

(CLICK)    Cover letter for your GP

(CLICK)    ESA Appeals Letter for your GP

(CLICK)     Legal Advice of Counsel for GPs: Prevention of Avoidable Harm Interpretation and Application of ‘Substantial Risk’ ESA Regulations 29 & 35

With many thanks to the Black Triangle Campaign for these extremely helpful links and templates.

Please remember: Regulations 29 and 35 still apply to all ongoing ESA claims, and will remain in use for contribution-based ESA claims.

Regulations 25 and 31 apply to Universal credit when that is rolled out. If you are one of the few currently claiming Universal Credit in one of the pilot areas, and if you are not eligible for contribution-based ESA, Regulations 25 and 31 apply now. You may amend the print off documents for your GP, as they cite the Regulations most likely to be applicable at the moment.

The full text of the legislation appears at the end of this article (Appendix A).

3. The Atos assessment and what you need to know.

You have a right to ask for your assessment to be recorded. You will need to request this in advance, but it’s worth making sure you use this opportunity to gather evidence on record because in doing so, you make it much more difficult for the Health Care Professional (HCP) to disregard what you tell them and write “inaccuracies” in their assessment report. We would strongly recommend you exercise this right.

It’s also worth knowing that Atos don’t conduct “medical” assessments,  they conduct “disability analysis“. You are not a patient to Atos, you are a “claimant”.

Bear in mind throughout the assessment that your answers to any apparently innocent questions, such as

  • Do you watch television
  • Do you read
  • Do you use the internet 

may be translated into phrases for the assessment report like these:

  • Can sit unaided and unsupported for at least half an hour. 
  • Has no problems with concentration and focus
  • Has no visual problems

Assessment starts on the day of your appointment with the HCP reading the form you completed when you applied for benefit. Remember that every single question you are asked is designed to justify ending your claim for ESA and passing you as “fit for work.” That is what Atos are contracted to do by the Government. This is not a genuine medical assessment, but rather, an opportunity for the DWP to take away the financial support that you are entitled to.

Things that are noted from your form:

  • Did you complete the form yourself
  • Is the handwriting legible
  • Are the contents coherent

These observations are already used in assessing your hand function, your cognitive state and concentration.

Further observations made:

  • Do the things you have written add up, is there consistency
  • Does your medication support your diagnosis
  • What tests have you had to confirm diagnosis. For example a diagnosis of sciatica is not accepted unless diagnosed by MRI scan
  • Do you have supporting medical evidence from your GP or consultants. If you do, it shows that you are able to organise getting this information

When the HCP has read your form they input some data into the computer system. The assessment properly begins when they call your name in the waiting room.

At this point the HCP assesses:

  • Did you hear your name being called
  • Did you rise from your chair unaided, did the chair have support arms or not
  • Were you accompanied – assessing your ability to go out alone
  • Were you reading a paper while waiting – assessing your concentration
  • Did you walk to the assessment room unaided, did you use aids correctly. Did you navigate any obstacles safely – assessing sight

The HCP will shake your hand on introduction – assessing your handshake, noting if are you trembling, sweating – signs of anxiety. Note that you are under constant scrutiny. The HCP will often ask on the way to the assessment room:

  • How long you’ve been waiting – assessing your ability to physically sit, and appraising your mental state
  • How did you get here today – assessing your ability to drive or use public transport

Formal assessment begins by listing medical conditions/complaints. For each complaint you will be asked:

  • How long have you had it, have you seen a specialist
  • Have you had any tests, what treatments have you had
  • What’s your current treatment. Have you had any other specialist input e.g. physiotherapy, CPN

The HCP will use a lack of specialist input/ hospital admissions to justify assessing your condition as less severe. Medications will be listed and it will be noted if they are prescribed or bought. Dates will be checked on boxes to assess compliance with dosage and treatment regime. Any allergies or side-effects should be noted.

  • A brief note is made of how you feel each condition affects your life
  • A brief social history will be taken – who you live with, if have you stairs in your house or steps outside your house
  • An employment history taken – when you last worked, what you work entailed, reason for leaving employment

Your typical day – this is the part of the assessment where how you function on a day to day basis is used to justify the HCP decisions. Anything you say here is most often used to justify the HCP “failing” you and assessing you as “fit for work”. The HCP records their observations.

Starting with your sleep pattern, questions are asked about your ability to function. This will include:

  • Lower limb problems – ability to mobilise to shop, around the house, drive, use public transport, dress, shower
  • Upper limb – ability to wash, dress, cook, shop, complete the ESA form
  • Vision – did you manage to navigate safely to the assessment room
  • Hearing – did you hear your name being called in the waiting room
  • Speech – could the HCP understand you at assessment
  • Continence – do you describe incontinence NOT CONTROLLED by pads, medication. Do you mention its effects on your life when describing your typical day
  • Consciousness – do you suffer seizures – with loss of continence, possible injury, witnessed, or uncontrolled diabetes
  • The HCP observations include noting how far you walked to the examination room, watching to see if you removed your coat independently, did you handle medications without difficulty, did you bend to pick up your handbag

Formal examination consists of simple movements to assess limited function. Things the HCP also looks at:

  • Are you well-presented, hair done, wearing make-up, eyebrows waxed
  • Do you have any pets – this can be linked with ability to bend to feed and walk
  • Do you look after someone else – as a parent or carer – if you do, this will be taken as evidence of functioning
  • Are you doing any training, voluntary work, do you socialise – this will be used as evidence of functioning

This is not a comprehensive list, but it gives you an idea of how seemingly innocent questions are used to justify HCP decisions to pass you as “fit for work.”

Mental Health:

  • Learning tasks – can you use a phone, computer, washing machine
  • Hazards – can you safely make tea, if you claim you have accidents, there must be emergency services involvement, e.g. fire service. Near miss accidents do not count

Personal Actions:

  • Can you wash, dress, gather evidence for assessment
  • Do you manage bills

Other observations made by the HCP – appearance and presentation:

  • Coping with assessment interview – any abnormal thoughts, hallucinations, confusion, suicidal thoughts
  • Coping with change – ability to attend assessment, attend GP or hospital appointments, shopping and socialising

More HCP observations include:

  • Appearance, eye contact, rapport, any signs/symptoms that are abnormal mood/thoughts/perceptions. Any suicidal thoughts
  • How you cope with social engagement- appropriateness of behaviour – any inappropriate behaviour must have involved police to be considered significant
  • Your capacity to cope with the assessment, overall responses and level of engagement with the assessor

Again, this is not an exhaustive list, merely some examples.

Additional information:

Special cases: exemptions from assessment include – terminal illness, intravenous chemotherapy treatment and regular weekly treatment of haemodialysis for chronic renal failure; treatment by way of plasmapheresis; regular weekly treatment by way of total parenteral nutrition for gross impairment of enteric function.

At present to qualify for ESA you need to score 15 points. This can be a combination of scores from physical and mental health descriptors.To qualify for the support group you must score 15 points in one section. As long as you are claiming income-based ESA then your award can be renewed at each assessment, if you gain 15 points.

Remember that you may also qualify without meeting the 15 points criterion, even if you don’t score any points, because of Exceptional Circumstances (Regulations 25, 29 and 31, 35) if there would be a substantial risk to your mental or physical health if you were found not to have limited capability for work and/or work-related activity respectively.

Contribution-based ESA lasts for 1 year only, unless you are in the Support Group. After 1 year, in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG), you may only get income-based ESA if your household income is below a certain threshold. It makes no difference how long you have previously paid National Insurance. 

Further information:

Lord Freud – “Reliably, repeatedly and safely”  – Source: Hansard, column 326, paragraph 4.

*There are Judges who interpret the law and where applicable, set precedent. There are Ministers who set policy. With specific reference to the use of repeatedly, reliably, safely, and in a timely manner, this is the result of Upper Tribunal judges interpreting the law and setting precedent through case law.*

Exceptional Circumstances: Employment and Support Allowance Regulation 25
Exceptional Circumstances: Employment and Support Regulation 31
Employment and Support Allowance: 2013 Regulations in full
Explanatory memorandum to all benefits 2013: Full legislation document
Recommended – Implications of the changes and advice: Employment Support Allowance claim update: Exceptional Circumstances – Regulations 25 and 31 and Universal Credit
Recommended – The Black Triangle Campaign: How to Gain Exemption from DWP/Atos ‘Fit for Work’ & WRAG decisions by Applying ESA Regulations 29 and 35 (see note for 25 and 31)
The new Work Capability Assessment 2013: DWP Guide
The Employment and  Support Allowance Regulations 2008 (as amended) –

Appendix A: 

Regulation 25

25.—(1) A claimant who does not have limited capability for work as determined in accordance with the limited capability for work assessment is to be treated as having limited capability for work if paragraph (2) applies to the claimant.

(2) Subject to paragraph (3), this paragraph applies if—

(a) the claimant is suffering from a life-threatening disease in relation to which—

(i) there is medical evidence that the disease is uncontrollable, or uncontrolled, by a recognised therapeutic procedure; and

(ii) in the case of a disease that is uncontrolled, there is a reasonable cause for it not to be controlled by a recognised therapeutic procedure; or

(b) the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and, by reason of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work.

(3) Paragraph (2)(b) does not apply where the risk could be reduced by a significant amount by—

(a) reasonable adjustments being made in the claimant’s workplace; or

(b) the claimant taking medication to manage the claimant’s condition where such medication has been prescribed for the claimant by a registered medical practitioner treating the claimant.

(4) In this regulation “medical evidence” means—

(a) evidence from a health care professional approved by the Secretary of State; and

(b) evidence (if any) from any health care professional or a hospital or similar institution,

or such part of such evidence as constitutes the most reliable evidence available in the circumstances.

*Regulation 25 outlines exceptional circumstances in which a person will be treated as having limited capability for work, but may be capable of work-related activities. People in these circumstances are placed in the ESA work-related activity group (WRAG)

However, there are further exceptional circumstances in which a person  will be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity in addition, and will therefore be placed in the ESA support group. These are outlined by Regulation 31.

Regulation 31 

31.—(1) A claimant is to be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity if—

(a) the claimant is terminally ill;

(b) the claimant is—

(i) receiving treatment for cancer by way of chemotherapy or radiotherapy;

(ii) likely to receive such treatment within six months after the date of the determination of capability for work-related activity; or

(iii) recovering from such treatment,

and the Secretary of State is satisfied that the claimant should be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity;

(c) in the case of a woman, she is pregnant and there is a serious risk of damage to her health or to the health of her unborn child if she does not refrain from work-related activity; or

(d) the claimant is entitled to universal credit and it has previously been determined that the claimant has limited capability for work and work-related activity on the basis of an assessment under Part 5 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

(2) A claimant who does not have limited capability for work-related activity as determined in accordance with regulation 30(1) is to be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity if—

(a) the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement; and

(b) by reason of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work-related activity.

For all ongoing cases where Universal Credit does NOT apply, and for ALL Contributions-based ESA claims:

Regulation 29

29.—(1) A claimant who does not have limited capability for work as determined in accordance with

the limited capability for work assessment is to be treated as having limited capability for work if:

paragraph (2) applies to the claimant.

(2) This paragraph applies if—

(a) the claimant is suffering from a life threatening disease in relation to which—

(i) there is medical evidence that the disease is uncontrollable, or uncontrolled, by a recognised therapeutic procedure; and

15(ii) in the case of a disease that is uncontrolled, there is a reasonable cause for it not to be controlled by

a recognised therapeutic procedure; or

(b) the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and, by reasons of

such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work.

Regulation 35

35.—(1) A claimant is to be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity if—

(a) the claimant is terminally ill;(b) the claimant is—

21(i) receiving treatment by way of intravenous, intraperitoneal or intrathecal chemotherapy; or

(ii) recovering from that treatment and the Secretary of State is satisfied that the claimant should be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity; or

(c) in the case of a woman, she is pregnant and there is a serious risk of damage to her health or to the health of her unborn child if she does not refrain from work-related activity.

(2) A claimant who does not have limited capability for work-related activity as determined in accordance with regulation 34(1) is to be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity if—

(a) the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement; and

(b) by reasons of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work-related activity.

Appendix B

Most Atos HCPs are not doctors, they are usually nurses or occupational therapists. You can demand that a qualified doctor or specialist conducts your assessment under some circumstances. I’ve gathered the following list from various Freedom of Information responses from the Department for Work and Pensions.

List of conditions judged suitable for assessment by neuro – trained nurses/any health care profession, so make sure that you are seen by a qualified HCP: 

Prolapsed intervertebral disc
Lumbar nerve root compression
Slipped disc
Lumbar spondylosis
Lumbar spondylolisthesis
Lumbar spondylolysis
Cauda equina syndrome
Spinal stenosis
Peripheral neuropathy
Drop foot
Meralgia paraesthetica
Cervical spondylosis
Cervical nerve root compression
Nerve entrapment syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Trapped nerve
Brachial plexus injury
Essential Tremor

List of conditions judged by the DWP and Atos Healthcare as suitable only for assessment by doctors:

Head injury with neuro sequelae
Brain haemorrhage
Sub Arachnoid Haemorrhage
Brain tumour
Acoustic Neuroma
Multiple Sclerosis
Motor Neurone Disease
Parkinson’s disease
Bulbar Palsy
Myasthenia Gravis
Muscular Dystrophy
Guillain-Barre Syndrome
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Spina bifida
Fits (secondary to brain tumour)
Learning difficulties (with physical problems)
Bells Palsy
Trigeminal Neuralgia
Huntington’s Chorea
Huntington’s Disease

Further reading:

More on questions you may be asked at assessment: dwpexamination forum 
How to deal with Benefits medical examinations: A Useful Guide to Benefit Claimants when up against ATOS Doctors
More support and advice here: How to deal with Benefits medical examinations
Step by step guide to appealing a ESA decision: Good Advice Matters

Important update

Clause 99, Catch 22 – The ESA Mandatory Second Revision and Appeals

Additional support:

The LawWorks Clinics Network is a nationwide network of free legal advice sessions which LawWorks supports.Clinics provide free initial advice to individuals on various areas of law including social welfare issues, employment law, housing matters and consumer disputes – List of LawWorks  clinics


Written by Robert Livingstone and Sue Jones.

With many thanks to Joyce Drummond for contributing such valuable information about the Work Capability Assessment.

With many thanks to The Black Triangle Campaign for sharing their work on the GP support letter template, and covering legal and explanatory documents

154 thoughts on “Essential information for ESA claims, assessments and appeals

  1. I was hoping if anyone can help me….I am with an organisation that provides free representation and a fmaily member of mine has an appeal coming up. I wanted to be sure that I can still represent them, both as a rep and a family member. I also helped fill out the questionnaire?


  2. if u are just filling in your esa50 form and going from ib to esa is it important to mention the exceptional circumstances regs on your esa50? has anyone else out there applied the regulations in a template letter at the esa50 form stage? if so what was the outcome? i dont want to have to appeal or go to a wca so do you think if i mention the regulations on the esa50 in a template letter first BEFORE the wca or before i have to appeal it will be worthwhile?

    any help please


    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is compulsory by the DWP to have the ATOS wca as i got a letter stating this in bold letters although im fighting a case with DWP with my MP representing me for a Home visit its been long and winded at times still fighting and will see it to the end just waiting for a reply from my MP the stage im at is that i have got my GP to write a letter to DWP and he is fully supporting me at this stage of the long drawn process I feel alot better my MP is in support and has been very supportive and sympathetic the sooner we kick camtwat out in 19 months time the better Tory Scum !


  4. My file has been sent back to the DWP by Atos so i await a Letter from DWP Dont know much at this point just a letter from Atos stating no longer have to attend a Wca will keep you posted al


  5. i would love to recount my experience with the wca and atos, having gone a through the entire appeal and tribunal process . it was a complete and utter farce which should be put into the public domain, if nothing else but as a counterfoil to mail readers and closet nazi’s alike can anyone point me in the right direction?


  6. Hi,

    Looking at the 2013 regulations, it states that to qualify for ESA, you need 15 points, either from section 1, or from section 2, or from a combination of section 1 & 2. I can’t find in the regulations where it says that if you score 15 points in one section, you qualify for the support group. Can you tell me where I can find this in the regulations, to help me with an appeal?

    “At present to qualify for ESA you need to score 15 points. This can be a combination of scores from physical and mental health descriptors.
    To qualify for the support group you must score 15 points in one section.
    As long as you are claiming income-based ESA then your award can be renewed at each assessment, if you gain 15 points.”



  7. Your information and advice helped me to appeal against the DWP. , My case was based on the fact that the ATOS HCP did not present ‘all the facts’ when he submitted the ‘assessment’ to the DWP, whether this was through choice or whether it was because he has ‘targets’ to meet, we will never know, and the HCP will never admit it. I presented letters from my physio and all the correspondence from my consultant concerning my disability, my physical disability is obvious ,the HCP even refers to it in the medical assessment, but he omits to record the obvious . I had a back operation in 2012 and I now cannot sit or stand for any length of time because of the nerve damage that ‘may have occurred’ during the op. I went through hell , having to live off £71 a week, I was threatened on numerous occasions with eviction, and court with council tax and rent arrears, because the local council or landlord does not and will not take into account your circumstances, all they want is the rent/council tax. I contacted my landlord and city council on numerous occasions explaining the situation, but , although they sympathised, I was still in arrears according to their books. When I won my appeal, within a week I was presented with a rent and council tax bill that was backdated to when I was awarded backdated ESA, but I hadnt had word at the time what ESA I was awarded. The money I received backdated has been used to pay backdated rent and council tax, I have no problem paying what I owe, my problem is the last 6 months of stress and worry that I have had to go through !! I had 6 months of stress and hardship because of a report sent to the DWP by the ATOS HCP, The first stage of my appeal was dismissed by the DWP, and I was told to appeal further, because they believed the ATOS HCP assessment, so I went to tribunal.. Before stating my case at the tribunal the ‘judge’ made it clear that he had no reason to believe anything other than what the ATOS and DWP assessment stated. During my tribunal, I presented a witness ( who is aware how hard my day to day living is ) and letters from my doctor and consultant , I also had a witness and letters from all concerned when I went to my original assessment with ATOS HCP. I have won my case, but I really worry about those that do not have the staminer or support I have had. Believe me, I have had family support, but otherwise I have had no financial support or understanding .

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This seems to be the case vital information not getting through or very late such a backlog of Appeals as well, IDS and Dave to blame but nothing new there hey!. My situation very Similar but i was lucky enough to not have to Appeal,I Feel for everyone who is having to jump through hoops in this welfare reform Idiocy.


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  10. I collapsed on the floor of the assessment room floor crying, the assessor ended the assessment, saying that she alone stopped it, weeks later I got a letter saying I was in the support group. When I got the records it said I was a risk to myself and others in the workplace.


    1. I also collapsed at my last assessment, and was put in the support group for the same reasons.

      Atos sent me home in a taxi, which they paid for. No reassessment until 2015


  11. David Cameron and all the others are the real TERRORISTS here! do you realize how many people commit suicide each day,week ,month all because of the way our GOVERNMENT treats people.
    They should be taken to court and made to answer ,but alas nothing happens and they keep making more money and people keep dying and dealing with hardship and torment,
    And yet i am one more voice that says the same thing,,,
    What happened to this world?
    Are we the people to blame cause we dont do anything to change this?
    Why is it allowed?

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I went through the horror of these assessments years ago. I suffered with acute postural Vertigo probably caused by Spondylosis and this was a grey area as it was transient. I was found fit although when in the clutches of the illness couldn’t sit up or walk. A galling side note was that one of the assessors was a local GP who had lost his job through alcoholism (no assessments for him!). As a well-known character in the town I was advised to see a solicitor who specialised in these cases. He interviewed me and got me to sign a statement which was presented to the tribunal. No questioning. I won my case and was given a back payment of benefits that I had been deprived of. Hope this can help someone although the system may have changed.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Superb website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same
    topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be
    a part of online community where I can get advice from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
    Appreciate it!


    1. My reply’s a bit late, Frozenmagic, but if you use Facebook there’s a group called Fightback4Justice. It’s run by a qualified lawyer and some very knowledgeable admins.


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  15. My husband received zero points . He was not seen by a doctor but by a healthcare official as he has had a stroke I thought a doctor should have done it it said he was examined which he was not just told to lift his arms above his head which he could not do with his right arm due to stroke affecting his right side whilst he can walk short distance he has to frequently sit down due to numbness in right leg can someone advise me how to go about any further action


  16. Dear kitty, I finally had my esa assesment on Monday 30th Nov the whole process was demeaning and degrading it was more of an interrogation than a medical I’m not holding out much hope even tho I’ve been put on pip for three years due to upcoming operations I definatly felt I was tricked into replys and quizzed over my fingernails being groomed( they are not they are totally natural grow and drop off) also I was asked if I have a dog which I do he is very old but I realise this went against me…the problem I went for arthritus of hands and wrists was overlooked and a whole body scrutiny took place by someone untrained to judge my medical state I will let you know the outcome many thanks for your help and advice during this time x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, many of the questions are designed so that the assessor can claim you can do things, such as bending to feed a dog. But you can always explain that it takes you ages, that you are inconsistently able to do so, and that you need helpt to do so . Ridiculous question about your nails – that’s apalling and a new one I’ve not come across before. All I can say is good luck, and if it doesn’t go as it ought to, if you need support with mandatory review and appeal, I will help all I can, Vivien x


  17. Hi kitty, just to let you know I got 6 points and turned down esa just to find out today I didn’t need it anyway as I have 40 qualifying years of national insurance contributions and already have earned enough stamp for full state pension….I have been through hell over this assessment controlled belittled and spoken to like a scrounger even arguing with the dwp this morning when she told me I don’t have enough points and all for what I have been put on pip for 3 yrs due to my disability it seems I’m unwell enough for pip to recognise my disability but well enough to not be recognised by esa dragged through a humiliating assessment and unable to claim anyway because my partner works thank you for all your help and advice the system is so flawed I feel for anyone going through it right now or in the future many thanks


    1. That’s something to use in a future appeal if anyone needs to- PIP is very stringent, it’s difficult to qualify unless you are very ill.

      I hope you have enough to get by on with your pension and so sorry to hear about your experiences being dragged through the WCA. All people who go through this are treated as a “scrounger” regardless of how ill they are, or their circumstances. It has to stop. Best wishes, Vivien x


  18. I cant thank you enough I’m very tearful today it’s been such a horrible experience you’ve been a friend at the end of a computer I’ve needed at a distressing time it seems unless you can’t move your arms and legs or are terminal you won’t pass an esa assessment so why put people through the humiliation you’ve been a lifeline many thanks x


  19. Hi kitty I have a question for you, in 2004 I was awarded industrial injuries the smallest amount due to a prolapsed disc in my workplace I have now realised my assessment was taking this into consideration even though I thought I was being assessed just for my arthritus and I was awarded only 6 points nothing for mobility can they take my industrial injuries away? It was a life award.


  20. Hi kitty, I have to move on from this assessment now I just can’t believe the lies the assessor told.. Ie I supposedly refused to take my boots off for a test on my feet? I wasn’t asked, also stating I wore a coat and managed to take it off and put it on I never wore it I carried my coat there and back and insinuations I was well groomed looked well and opened doors which I never did I do not lie anyone that knows me knows I’m an honest person I have to let it go now but once again thank you the work you do to help people is invaluable xx


    1. The comments make me angry about grooming – as if the government and assessors expect disabled people to be unkempt and not have pride in their appearance. And punish those who try by taking their lifeline benefit away – it’s disgusting. We are not expected to take holidays or meet friends in the pub, or in fact do anything at all that other people take for granted as “normal”. How dare they. 60 years of civil rights fought for and won, and this bunch of nasty totalitarians squash that in just 5 years.

      Best wishes Vivien xx

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Hi Kitty, the DWP has stopped my ESA payments because I rang Maximus to say that I wish to have my assessment recorded as I have cognitive and memory problems and I’m also worried I won’t be seen by a qualified mental health practitioner knowledgeable and trained in trauma. I was told I could have my assessment recorded when I next receive a date to attend. A few days later I received the BBF223 form (to show good cause for non-attendance) which I filled in and sent back by recorded delivery before the deadline date. On the same day I posted the form back to them, I received a letter stating my payments have stopped. I rang to say I have sent back the form and wondered why they’ve stopped payments before reading my ‘good cause’. I received a second letter saying their original letter to stop payments still stands. No explanation. Are the DWP not complying with their own ESA Regulations? Why bother sending out a ‘good cause’ form if they’re not even prepared to read it? Stopping my payments is having huge consequences for me and my mental health is deteriorating once again because of all the anxiety of having zero income again. I’m not sure how I will cope. I want to ask for a mandatory reconsideration but I need to be 100% certain first that the DWP have not complied with their ESA Regulations and I would appreciate your feedback. Thanks.


    1. Hi Anonymous. That’s absolutely awful and it’s not justified at all. I’ll have a look at the regulations about “good reason” and see if there are any options. The problem with mandatory review is that it leaves you with no money, unless you try and claim JSA, and some job centres refuse JSA claims on the grounds that you are “too ill to be available for work.” It’s an awful catch 22. Will see what info I can find to help.


    2. Hello again, Anonymous. First of all, if you got less than 7 days notice for the appointment, the rule is that the DWP can’t stop your payments. But I understood from what you said that you weren’t sent an appointment – if that’s the case then your money should NOT have been stopped as you didn’t miss an appointment for assessment.

      Secondly, I think that the DWP intend to completely cease payments, and to assume you are fit for work. Regulation 23 paragraph 3 states that they can do that if you miss an appointment “without good cause.”

      However, ESA Regulation 24 includes reasons that are accepted as “Good Cause” for non-attendance. The DWP HAVE to take into account:

      (a)whether the claimant was outside Great Britain at the relevant time;

      (b)the claimant’s state of health at the relevant time; and

      (c)the nature of any disability the claimant has.

      I think that the last one is very relevant for you. You may also be able to use the second one. Perhaps you ought to tell the DWP that you found the very thought of the assessment process very traumatic and intimidating. If you didn’t have an appointment then make sure they know that. If you did have one, then part b and c of regulation 24 applies and the DWP must consider this, I don’t believe they have. Here is the ESA regulation 24 –

      If you were not well enough to attend on the day (if you had an appointment), you could try to provide evidence of this, from your G.P as well.

      I hope this helps. You have been treated very unfairly, and I understand how this will adversely affect your mental health, which is something else you must inform the DWP of.

      Let me know how you get on, and very best wishes.

      Is there any one you can ask for support? Family or friends?


      1. Hi Kitty, I have taken my claim to the Appeal Centre and today I received a bundle of papers from the DWP which apparently is a copy of same sent to the Appeal Centre. They are stating that I did not show good cause for non-attendance because I did not return the good cause form. I did and I have proof and the DWP advisor over the phone confirmed that it had been received (I sent it recorded delivery, signed for and tracked it). I told the DWP this in the MR letter but they are refusing to acknowledge this. I was to send it back by 14th January which I did, yet in the meantime I received a letter dated 12th January from the DWP stating I had failed to show good cause. I told them they are not complying with their own rules as in they are to wait for the good cause letter to be sent back to them before doing anything and they completely ignored this. I cannot claim JSA because I sent in a sick-note with my MR up until 6th April and therefore the DWP jobcentre has told me I cannot claim JSA. Not that I want to, I feel far too ‘foggy’ and have trouble concentrating and remembering basic tasks and am fearful about being bullied but I had no choice to try and get some form of benefit to keep my housing benefit going and to feed myself because apparently I don’t qualify for Income Support even though I have zero savings / income. I was a victim (now survivor) of Narcissistic / Sociopathic abuse which left me with C-PTSD and Cognitive Dissonance and I had to give up my job as a Secretary because I couldn’t function. No-one believed what I experienced (as with all abuse, it happens behind closed doors) but the psychological torture I went through feels like it is happening all over again with the DWP. I wish I could show them my psychological scars but I can’t. It’s like having depression. It’s an invisible illness. I have had my story told in a book written by another survivor of N/S abuse (“Unashamed Voices: Exposing Sociopaths in our Midst” by Paula Carrasquillo – 39 stories from all around the globe in total) and whilst I am now fully aware of how manipulative people gain trust and target Empaths, I am still experiencing PTSD and Dissociation from it yet the DWP are not helping DV abuse victims at all. In fact, they are part of the problem since apathy only perpetuates abuse! Anyway Kitty, I just wanted to say that I really do appreciate your Site and helping others. It’s people like your good self who restores our faith in humanity. I’m going to try and write yet another letter now to the DWP stating ESA Regs 24 and see where that gets me. In the meantime, I’ll write a letter to my GP and ask her for support, given that the next available appointment to see her is in mid-April at the very earliest. Thank you so much for all you do.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Will you keep us informed of how you are getting on? I’m so glad you have the recorded delivery proof, and you’re absolutely right: the DWP are not following their own rules.

        I experienced DV, though it’s a long time ago, but I understand that the situation with the DWP, manipulating the truth and attempting to negate your experience brings back echoes.

        You have done so well in how you’ve handled this so far, doing everything right, and I hope your GP is very supportive. I know how tiring fighting the DWP is, and how demanding a tribunal can be, too. The letter to DWP – regs 24 – is also a very good idea, and I hope the DWP will back down on this.

        If there is anything else you need help with at all, I’m here. Please let us know how you are doing, and very good luck. You didn’t deserve this, I’m disgusted with the DWP x


      3. Hi Kitty, many thanks for your reply, understanding and support and I’m sorry to hear that you too experienced DV. It takes an awful long time to get over (as you know)and it’s something which the DWP refuse to acknowledge or be particularly concerned about, despite Emotional Abuse now being seen as a criminal offence, thanks to the effort of Polly Neate, CEO, Women’s Aid. I am busy typing up a letter to hand in to my GP, asking for a letter of support and I can’t seem to find the ESA good cause regulation which states that the DWP cannot strip a claimant of ESA prior to receiving the good cause form. Could you please tell me which Reg this is? I rang the DWP again yesterday and an advisor confirmed again that my good cause was received in time. I no longer question why the DWP (or certain individuals in general) lie or withhold / distort the truth …. they just do and they also feel comfortable and justified in doing so. Thanks Kitty x

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Is there something similar to Regulations 29 and 35 when applying for PIP? If not, is it possible to ask the assessor to sign some type liability if denied PIP for related health such as allergies, malnutrition, heart falure and other physical chronical illness that the lack of funds would lead to deterirorating health, mobility ie taking taxis, etc.. due to lack of funding to help towards daily living expenses?


    1. The Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/455)
      These Regulations amend the Social Security Personal Independence Payment Regulations 2013 to insert a provision into regulation 4. The provision requires that, when a claimant is being assessed for personal independence payment under those Regulations, that assessment must take into account whether the claimant can do the activity safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly and within a reasonable time period.

      It’s highly unlikely that the assessor will accept any liability for wrong assessment outcomes. The decision-maker is usually the DWP rather than the assessor, as far as I know.


  23. Hello I have to say I have just read this and I am disgusted by it. I don’t know this action can be justified in any way. I went to my assessment 2 weeks ago and naively thought it was just a formality and surely my payments wouldn’t be affected. I am fortunate enough to have a job but due to a run of bad health I have not been at work since last March. I did receive some company sick pay and SSP but that stopped in October so I had to claim ESA. I had an operation in April last year and a much bigger one in November last year. When I went to my assessment I told the lady that I was expecting another operation which I had last week. Everything was backed up with doctor/ consultant and hospital letters which I showed her.
    3 days after my operation last week I received a phone call from ESA telling me I had scored 0 points and that I can work. I told her I have a job which I am currently signed off for but that I am due to return to on the 10th April. She was arguing down the phone and said there are jobs I could be doing now!! I was very upset as I was supposed to be recuperating. She said I need to claim JSA (even though I have a job) and my ESA payments would stop now then she put me through to someone else who asked me a few questions and booked an appointment for me. Nobody cared that as part of my recovery I have been advised to stay away from groups of people for 2 weeks as I shouldn’t risk infection. How am I supposed to recover from 3 operations in one year with the stress of this?
    My appointment is on Tuesday 29th March. What would you advise?


    1. I’m horrified at your situation and how you are being treated. I’d recommend you contact citizens advice, if you can. And write to your MP.

      I would emphasise the fact that you are recovering from major surgery, you’ve been told to avoid infections – which includes common colds, as that risks you getting pneumonia. You are not currently capable of work related activity that is required for jobseekers, nor are you able to work, and you could ask for a mandatory review of the DWP decision. You should state that you feel harrassed and this is not helping you to recover, the stress is having an adverse affect on your health, and that should anything happen as a consequence of the way you are being treated, you will be looking at pursuing legal action in the future.


    1. Help! – ESA assessment 0 points!

      I have been signed off sick for the last year with work related stress. I have also in the last month been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.

      In 2006 I collapsed at work with a suspected stroke but was eventually diagnosed with Labyrinthitis. This wiped me out for over 6 months and has left me with permanent damage to my balance, spatial awareness, cognitive function along with CFS and I am also now suspected of having Fibromyalgia but currently awaiting confirmation of this. I have also been diagnosed with a cavernous malformation in my brain that has already bled once and can do so again and am under a neurosurgeon re this and a possible operation to remove this in the future.
      I was expecting an assessment when I reached 13 weeks into my ESA claim but nothing happened until I received an appt for 30th Dec 2015. I arrived for my appt first thing in the morning which was a real struggle for me as first thing in the morning is my worst time, only to be told the assessor had called in sick. I was furious. They rescheduled for 4th Feb 2016 and just as I was about to leave the house for it I received a call from them saying they were running late so wanted to cancel again. I said no it had already been cancelled once and that did they realise my partner had already had to take 2 days off work to accompany me and that the amount of effort required on my part to prepare and attend the appointment. They said they would sort it and for me to go in as scheduled.
      When I got there the receptionist pointed out that she had had to cancel everyone else’s appointment in order to be able to accommodate me, she was very rude in fact.
      The assessor carried out the assessment and it seemed to consist of things totally irrelevant to my conditions and a week or so later I received a phone call saying I have scored no points and that my ESA would be stopped with immediate effect. I asked what I was supposed to live on and they said I should sign on for JSA. I said I am not fit for work and they said this happened to scores of people and that I can request a mandatory reconsideration but that JSA was my only option.
      I went to the Job centre to start a claim for JSA and then had to go down again 3 days later to sign on on my usual signing on day. They had to sign me off as sick as I had been so unwell since the previous appt.
      I am at my wits end because I am not fit to work, my GP also says this but the word of an assessor who saw me for 50 mins carries more weight than my GP who has known me for a very long time and is familiar with all my conditions is irrelevant.
      The assessors report is filled with inaccurate information, incorrect answers to questions, answers to questions I wasn’t even asked and so much info that is totally irrelevant to my problems.
      I have since asked for a Mandatory reconsideration but they stuck to their original assessment so I am left with no option but to appeal.
      Because I have now been confirmed as having Fibromyalgia I can now open a new claim for ESA which I have now done and they have now sent me another assessment form to complete which I am in the middle of doing. All this is making me even more stressed, ill and I am really struggling. I am being made to feel a fraud when in actual fact I have worked continually since I was 15 and I am now 60. I have struggled since 2006 to keep working and lost 4 jobs because I just cannot cope with them due to my illness.
      I now have another GP appt next week to ask her if she will write a letter for me confirming that she feels I am unfit for work. Interestingly I was assessed for PIP last year and was awarded it. How can ESA assess me diffenrently? I really dont understand.
      Can you advise me re this please? I am struggling.


      1. Hope your GP can provide support. I wrote this article a couple of years back, but it’s still up to date, with the exception of the mandatory review process, which wasn’t in place at the time of writing. Hope you will find it useful, and that you can use it to inform the review.


  24. we sent a letter from GP stating all medical history including subarachnoid haemorrhage and other brain injuries resulting in mild cognitive impairment memory impairment and an inability to do some tasks such as getting online, working remote control. Still want to see him. He has incontinence and wears continence pants, has sleep problems, i.e. does not sleep at night and does so during the day. Has visual impairment, epilepsy, liver cirrhosis leaving him prone to infections such as hospitalisation recently for cellulitis of left leg. Scoliosis of spine walks with stick and is bent over due to that. Asked for session to be recorded because I know that asking someone with a memory impairment direct questions can lead to confabulation. I.e. can you do this or that and he would say yes when he cannot. Can I as advocate assist in the session in terms of the mental capacity Act 2005 and 2007 and Equality Act right to reasonable adjustment (2010).

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I have suffered from chronic vertigo and insomnia for over a year. Used all resources available to me with regard to Employment and Support Allowance and despite having Dr’s, consultants and CAB’s support plus a Charity who finds work for the disabled declaring me unemployable I failed work capability assessment, mandatory reconsideration and an independent tribunal.

    In fact the Tribunal’s Judge after informing me that she was upholding the decision of the DWP admitted that she sympathised with me because she accepted that I was going to find it virtually impossible to find an employer who would employ me!!! And yet the only benefit available to me now will be Job Seekers Allowance where you have to declare yourself fit for work!!

    An entire system not fit for purpose.


    1. That’s absolutely jaw droppingly unfair. You have been very badly let down as, you say, by a system that is not fit for purpose.

      I’m just wondering how on earth you can possibly work “reliably, safely and consistently” with vertigo and sleep deprivation on top of that. I know that I can’t manage to do much when I get vertigo – and I only ever get it before a migraine; a half hour of visual loss and vertigo, and then I’m ok. Well except for the very severe headache for a while.

      I can’t drive or operate machinery because of that, though. And because of the ongoing eyesight problems I have. I would be a danger to both myself and others.

      The “reliably, safely and repeatedly” criteria should have been applied in your case – it’s a guideline that is meant to protect people like us, and actually, it’s also meant to safeguard others, too. If you reclaim ESA in the future, or decide to appeal at the upper tier tribunal, make sure you use that guideline. If you can’t do something reliably, repeatedly and safely, then you have to be considered as not being able to fulfil that task at all.


      1. Thanks for the reply Kitty…. Oh I did mention “reliably, repeatedly, safely” plenty of times. I even with the help of the CAB constructed an 11 page document outlining my conditions and the DWP’s “lies” (allegedly) and actually quoted the below:

        (Note – Lord Freud during the House of Lords debate 9 into changes to the WCA descriptors that were brought in on 28th March 2011 stated that in relation to fluctuating conditions: “It must be possible for all the descriptors to be completed reliably, repeatedly and safely, otherwise the individual is considered unable to complete the activity.”)

        All to no avail. The Judges comment astounded me. On the one hand she accepts that I am unemployable but she finds me fit for work!!!!

        I will sign on for JSA and just apply for all the jobs that I know I can’t do and when an employer asks why I am wasting their time I will just point them in the DWP’s direction. In fact I am going to apply for all the jobs that the DWP themselves advertise and smile smugly as I fail to be offered anything. I’ll just waste their time like they have wasted mine.

        If I do manage to find an employer who will employ me and fall down some stairs and injure myself or others I will see if I can sue the DWP, after all I have it in writing that they don’t view me as a danger to myself or others.

        By the way you wouldn’t know the legalities about whether a Doctor sitting on a Tribunal should be registered with the GMC would you?


      2. I suspect that in the event of an accident, the DWP will point to the assessor’s report and the assessor will claim the DWP make the final decision…

        I don’t know about the GMC qualification criteria, but will try and find out for you. I would imagine that a fair tribunal would need a qualified doctor’s opinion.


      3. Thanks Kitty. I have looked into it and seen that the Dr in question retired and is no longer registered on the GMC list. It may be that you only need to be qualified as an advisor and have to be registered to practice I am not sure, but I assume he has to sign something with regard to any case he is on and I am pretty sure I saw somewhere to sign medical documents you needed to be registered.

        For instance I used to be a Football Coach, both qualified and registered. I am still qualified but if I wanted to coach again I would have to re register.


  26. Thanks Kitty. Found some interesting info this evening.

    As above I stated that I was intrigued because the Doctor that sat on my Tribunal is down on the General Medical Councils List of General Medical Practitioners as Not Registered – Having Relinquished Registration

    So I have been doing some research and came across some documents on The General Medical Councils website
    and there are some very interesting statements such as :

    1. Registration with the General Medical Council confers many “privileges” on doctors (as well as a number of duties). Indeed, certain activities may only lawfully be undertaken by medical practitioners that have been duly registered, i.e. Registered Medical Practitioners.


    1. The most important privilege conferred upon a Registered Medical Practitioner is that, unlike unregistered doctors, he or she may perform any duties as a physician, surgeon or other medical officer:
    In any other public establishment, body or institution


    3. Appointments

    1. Registered Medical Practitioners have important skills and knowledge and therefore there are several appointments that are exclusively reserved to practitioners registered with the General Medical Council and appointments for which registered medical practitioners are eligible, for example:

    • Employment medical advisors must be Registered Medical

    • Special Visitors must be Registered Medical Practitioners; Special Visitors are individuals who assist the court by providing independent advice on matters relating to an individual lacking capacity.

    • Registered Medical Practitioners are eligible to be appointed as members of the First-tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal (tribunals that determine, amongst other things, appeals against a refusal by the Secretary of State to grant social security benefit).


    2. Further examples of appointments that are either exclusively available to Registered Medical Practitioners and appointments for which Registered Medical Practitioners are eligible, can be found in Schedule 3: Appointments.

    Employment Advisory Service – Only fully Registered Medical Practitioners are qualified to be appointed as employment medical advisors.

    Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (Section 56)


    Have they all been pulling the wool well and truly over all our eyes for years? How many other retired unregistered Doctors sit on Tribunals?!

    Liked by 1 person

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