West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Successful ESA Appeal claimants now being targeted

Published: 15 January, 2014

Sinn Féin West Tyrone MLA Michaela Boyle says the many Employment and Support Allowance claimants are being subject to a 'conveyer belt of misery' by being forced to undergo further re-assessment for the benefit just three months after having successfully appealed a decision to disallow them the benefit.

She said,

"Over recent months it has become clear through the work of my office that the Department is now systematically targeting ESA claimants who, just 3 months previously, had successfully appealed the decision to disallow them the benefit.

"Given all these claimants (placed in the Work Activity Group WAG) had to undergo at least a year, and often more, of mental stress as well as being financially penalised as they awaited for their Appeal Tribunal to be heard- it goes without saying that are completely shattered at being subject to the entire re-assessment process all over again so soon especially given the fact that it is also now taking up to 8 weeks following the appeal before the mainstream sickness benefit rate is re-instated and any due arrear are paid.

"Given the already flawed assessment process being undertaken by ATOS which is resulting in so many initial wrong decisions being taken to be overturned on appeal, this latest development is turning the entire process into a conveyer belt of misery for claimants and particularly those with significant mental health problems.

"It seems as if that this new phase of targeting those are successful in their appeals is being done in the hope that people will give up given the repeated stress and strain that it entails.

There is no justification for treating people with significant physical and mental health problems in this way and the Minister for Social Development needs to once again review the way this ESA process is being conducted.