Socialist Party
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13 June 2012

From pillar to post: reassessment for ESA

Paul Harrison, Bristol

Last September I found myself on incapacity benefit. But just weeks later, the government's Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) told me I had to re-apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

I was told I had been placed on work-related ESA and that the amount I receive would be the same as I received on incapacity benefit. They also told me to attend the Jobcentre Plus for a work-related interview, where I was put on the Work Programme.

Next I was passed to JobFit, who only exist at the end of a telephone. They called me and said I was to be transferred to an outfit called Seetec. Are you still with me?

On arrival claimants were lectured about not wearing hoodies or using mobile phones. They said they had no budget for training: my heart sank as I wanted to attend a course at my local college.

I was, however, given a "personal adviser". Don't hold your breath. Within five weeks Seetec changed my personal adviser four times, leaving me feeling very stressed, and my doctor had to double my levels of medication.

Seetec wasn't a placement, rather a holding pen for job-ready employees who are looking for work that isn't there. Nobody at Seetec spoke to me about the barriers I might face in trying to re-enter the world of work. I was just dumped on a computer and told to look for a placement myself.

I understand the Con-Dem coalition has spent 5 billion on the Work Programme. For older workers like me, once you're on the adult Work Programme, companies like Seetec have you on their books for two years, during which time you cannot choose to leave.

So what did I learn? If you're on ESA and are pressured into volunteering for the no-work programme, don't bother. It's a con. Unscrupulous companies (and we've all heard about A4e) line their pockets from the Tories' 5 billion hand-out, while the poor are treated like pawns in this unsavoury game.