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Citizens Advice Bureaux see disability benefit problems soar by 67%

17 January 2013

As MPs debate issues with Atos, new figures just released by national charity Citizens Advice reveal that last year CAB advisers in England and Wales helped people with 430,000 problems about Employment and Support Allowance, the benefit paid to people too sick or disabled to work - up 67% on the previous year.

An unprecedented 90,000 of these enquiries specifically concerned appeals. A further 70,000 were about the controversial Work Capability Assessments (WCA) carried out by Atos and used to decide if people are fit for work.

Citizens Advice today renewed its call for Atos to be fined for every inaccurate WCA report it produceswhere a decisionis overturned at appeal. Official government figures show the cost of appeals from 2009/10-2011/12 to be £60 million. DWP figures show 38 per cent of appeals against an ESA decision are successful and CAB advisers estimate the success rate at appeal where someone receives specialist CAB advice and is represented is around 80 per cent.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“Mistakes by Atos have a human cost and a cost to the tax payer. Getting medical assessments right first time is absolutely essential to ensuring that seriously ill and disabled people get the support they are entitled to, and cutting the number of unnecessary appeals.

“Private companies on government contracts must be accountable to the public. Government should act now to put in place regular, independent monitoring of the accuracy of work capability assessment (WCA) reports and look at imposing financial penalties on Atos for every inaccurate report that they produce.”

Problems with benefits and tax credits are up 8% in 2012 compared with the previous year. They now represent 35% of all enquiries to bureaux, compared to 30% concerning debt. Employment Support Allowance generates more enquiries than any other benefit at 18% of all benefit advice.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit You can also get advice online at
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.