Latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may finally help the Tory-led coalition realise that there really ARE some sick and disabled people in Britain who are simply too ill to work.

The number of people entitled to sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has soared to all-time high, official figures (pdf) released in March by the DWP show.

From a low of 35% in 2009, the number of people found eligible for ESA following an initial assessment has risen to 69% in 2013, whilst the number of people found ‘fit for work’ has decreased from a high of 65% in 2009 to just 31% in April-June 2013.

The government would probably suggest the increase in the number of people found eligible for ESA is due to improvements made to the assessment process – and to an extent that may be true – but the simple truth we must all accept is that some people are too ill or disabled to work.

In a civilised society those people should be given the full support they need and not constantly subjected to an inhumane and demoralising testing regime.


Figures also show that the number of sick and disabled people placed within the support group of ESA has also increased. This group of people are not expected to be able to begin looking for work anytime soon. The number of people found ‘fit for work’ following an initial work capability assessment (WCA) has decreased to 31%. The Work Related Activity Group, or WRAG, is for those claimants who are regarded as unfit-for-work but may be able to in the near future.


The number of sick and disable ESA claimants found capable of work following repeat assessments is also showing a downward trend.

Outcome of repeat functional assessment by date of assessment, Great Britain.
Outcome of repeat functional assessment by date of assessment, Great Britain.

However, it’s bad news for sick and disabled people who may be planning to appeal against a ‘fit for work’ decision as the number of decisions being overturned in favour of the appellant is falling, figures suggest. This may be a result of changes to the benefit appeals system, which means claimants must first request the decision be reviewed (mandatory reconsideration) before they can appeal the decision to a social security tribunal.

Outcome of appeals heard on Fit for Work decisions in initial functional assessment by date of  claim start, Great Britain
Outcome of appeals heard on Fit for Work decisions in initial functional assessment by date of
claim start, Great Britain
  • Surely what these figures suggest is that people are afraid to apply for ESA unless they’re desperate. They might be people who are fit to work, but my concern is that they are not fit for work, they’re just afraid of the assessment process. I suspect this will include a high number of people with mental health problems and disabilities like autism. This will mean they will continue to be jobless, but won’t receive any support, and given that this cohort is at higher risk of benefits sanctions, absolute poverty could be the result. Meanwhile, the tiny proportion of benefits cheaters will still continue to cheat because they know how to work the system and are good liars.

  • I was deemed fit for work by Atos and fought it at tribunal, where I was told I am unfit for work and should be left alone for 18 months, I had been on long term ICB for 16 years, due to cervical spondylosis and a few other problems. I recieved a letter in March saying that payment will be stopping end of April. I rang social to be told I was in the Wrag group and benefit was only paid for 365 days, so I asked did I have to reapply as I was still unfit for work. I was told no I couldn’t and would have to claim for income benefit against my husbands wages, which is a no no as he is just above the cut of point for any help. I told the woman this and she just said well thats all I can advise !!!!!!!!!!!!!! I said over and over again I was unfit for work and it felt like it was just tough and get over it. So I am going to have no money coming to me and I am still unfit for work, that is how this Government is fiddling the figures, as I am sure I’m not the only one caught out in this, so what are we supposed to do, just shrug our shoulders and get on with it. Shame on the Government and anyone else who thinks those on benefits are faking it…..

  • These figures are totally misleading and probably represent less than half the actual number of people too sick or disabled to work. Why? Because as Vicky above said if your partner earns over £110 per week you are NOT entitled to ESA. So my partner a part time intensive care nurse on 12k per year has to look after me, our eleven year old child and our home. I can claim no ESA despite paying tens of thousand in NI and tax before falling ill at 45. No incapacity benefit or sickness pay. It is like I have paid all this to a dodgy insurance firm who have changed the rules after the contract in their favour.