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Benefits Assessor: If The Company I Work For Fails To Meet Assessment Targets, It Can Get Fined By The DWP

November 14, 2016

I’m the person who assesses whether or not your medical condition is stopping you from being able to work – and I have never felt so dejected by a job.

It’s my job to carry out work capability assessments to see if people qualify for Employment Support Allowance (ESA). For 18 months, I’ve been working for a private company to which the the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) outsources this task.

I’m a healthcare professional who joined after being disillusioned with working in the NHS. I will be honest: for me, as for many of my colleagues, the salary, which is far higher than NHS pay, was a big draw. But like all healthcare professionals, we want to do a good job. We go into caring professions because we care.

But in this job I just don’t always have the time to be as sympathetic as I’d like to be or give people the time they need. We are under constant pressure to assess at least six claimants a day, spending 65 minutes on average with each.

If the company I work for fails to meet its assessment targets it can get fined by the DWP. So I often get a knock on the door to ask how much longer I will be and when I can pick up another case.

ESA is a contentious type of benefit and the people who walk into my assessment room are often anxious, angry, scared, pessimistic or resigned. Many have lost faith in the system and feel the government is abandoning them. We are often the sounding board for the people who come in. They confide in us about the horrific things that have happened to them.

About 80% of the people we see have mental health problems. I have assessed clients who were actively psychotic, in a manic bipolar phase, or severely depressed to the point where they couldn’t speak and a family member had to do the talking for them.

There has been a general improvement in reports since the company I work for took over the contract, but there still isn’t always the time to give full consideration to the complexity of cases. Some people have as many as 15 medical conditions and we have to document and obtain a history for every single one. When this happens, staff know it will take longer. It can lead to us rushing and missing things because we are so concerned about not seeing enough people during the day. It is relentless.

Most people I assess understand we are just there to do a job. But some people are very volatile and some do resort to verbal abuse, intimidation, and occasionally, physical violence. They’re angry at the system – and I can understand why.

As the face of that system, I am the one who bears the brunt of their ire. We all try to placate and soothe the people who come in as best as we can. But sometimes we just can’t. I have had to abandon cases and there have been countless times where the emergency services have been called. Sometimes I feel genuinely scared.

As we don’t make the ultimate decision, we never find out what happens in the end. When someone asks how they have done, it can be very difficult. I’m not allowed to tell them anything, but I know that if I have scored them little or no points, they will most likely lose their benefit and be expected to hunt for a job. It makes me feel so dishonest and I imagine their face when they’re hit with that letter or phone call, delivering the bad news.

It is most difficult with the ones who are trying their best to get by but just aren’t deemed bad enough to qualify for any support. Many claimants are older and underskilled, which makes it much harder for them to find work. I have cried on two occasions after an assessment because I felt so awful that I couldn’t help.

The job is incredibly demoralising and psychologically draining – by the end of the day I’m exhausted. I honestly don’t know how much longer I will last.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. PJB permalink
    November 14, 2016 10:12 am

    This government has some very serious questions to answer but camerun has made sure that we cant afford to get the assistance we need to ask those questions.
    This government seem to be TEFLON COATED, they lie, cheat and kill, what can we do, i had my assessment three weeks ago and amongst my illnesses i have Dementia but its still craving on with no knowledge of what to expect or when or even IF I will get my benefits, it must be very difficult for some of the assessors but then some seem to survive on others misery.

  2. billkruse permalink
    November 14, 2016 10:28 am

    What you’re doing is contributing to the removal of social security for yourself, your children and grandchildren. Stop doing it.

  3. jeffrey davies permalink
    November 14, 2016 11:19 am

    i was only following orders was the reply yet their words we have to work then not for these devils has a nurse once apon a time was called a angel today they aint working for these poverty pimps

  4. November 14, 2016 1:45 pm

    Reblogged this on campertess and commented:
    It comes down to money. This person will decide if you can eat or not. Do that have any idea how much pain & misery they are causing to the people they assess ? Probably not.

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