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ESA system letting down sick and disabled

25 January 2014

Citizens Advice highlights the need for people to get the right support as Government releases new figures on Employment and Support Allowance.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

"ESA is desperately in need of reform. Far too many sick and disabled people are still being let down by incorrect assessments and long delays. Appeals against bad decisions have cost taxpayers more than £60 million and between October 2012 and September 2013 bureaux have helped with 465,602 problems with ESA.

"A system in which people can be found fit for work without proper medical evidence cannot be fair. It is completely unacceptable that sick and disabled people can face charges of more than £100 for medical evidence to help their claim whilst companies delivering assessments can get away without sanction for not doing their job properly. Ministers must ensure new contracts to deliver work capability assessments have strong punishments and fines for providers who get assessments wrong.

"The new mandatory reconsideration for people who want to challenge an assessment is an unnecessary and harmful extra barrier to people who need support. This extra red tape will make an already tough system even harder as many sick and disabled people will be left without any income whilst they challenge decisions."

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.