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Making benefits work for long term health conditions

Can you take this survey  to help design a better system for sickness, disability and work?


 Forget lifting empty cardboard boxes or picking up pound coins from the floor.

What are the real life factors that limit or prevent you working with a long term health condition?

And what are the adjustments, or forms of support you would need to improve your chances of getting and holding down paid work?

Do you need a compulsory course in motivation building, for example? Or do you need an understanding employer who can tailor a job description to your capabilities?

An important consultation is taking place about the future of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the hated Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and your views are urgently needed to shape recommendations for what a better incapacity benefit and employment support should look like.

Most politicians have accepted that the Work Capability Assessment must be replaced with something fairer and more accurate. And that ESA has failed by its own standards of getting more people on incapacity benefits back into work.

Critics have said from the start that the WCA fails people with mental health and other fluctuating health conditions by not adequately taking into account the impact of pain, fatigue, variability of symptoms and cognitive difficulties.

My own research with Mind, surveying the experiences of 500 people in the ESA Work Related Activity Group found that, regardless of diagnosis, the main factors that prevented people working were
1.      The variability of their condition
2.      Mental health problems
3.      Symptoms such as pain, fatigue, nausea, breathlessness

To redress this failure, Stef Benstead, disabled researcher and lead author of the last Spartacus report into ESA, has designed a consultation survey specifically for people with chronic mental and physical health conditions.

Her research is supported by the thinktank Ekklesia
My own view is that capability for work shouldn’t be assessed by asking whether you can look after your pet, or watch daytime TV, as currently happens in the WCA. It should be based on things like how many hours a week you could work, to what extent your capacity for work fluctuates and whether these variations can be predicted or controlled or not. What matters is not whether you can walk 40 metres or 60 metres as much as whether the effort of a simple commute into work leaves you next to useless once you get there.

But what you do think?

We have a chance to influence what happens after the WCA is scrapped. Please give your views and become a part of this process. Don’t let our fate decided once again by people with no experience of disability or ill health.

Read the full background to the survey and then take the survey here

There is no need to answer all the questions, just those that you want to answer. And if you prefer to email your views, email


  1. This is a film made by people with mental illness about the impact of WCA process. Feel free to share.

  2. This is a film made by people with mental illness about the impact of WCA process. Feel free to share.


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