Work Capability Assessment - Maureen's story
19 April 2011
Maureen Murphy from Essex had a difficult experience with the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and struggled to get the right support she needed following a brain haemorrhage in June 2010.
Maureen received sick pay from her employer for a while and then had to apply for Employment Support Allowance, which she received until she was called for her WCA. Maureen did not have a positive experience of the assessment. The assessor was unfriendly and did not appear to believe her answers to some of his questions, repeating one about how far she could see, until he eventually said “You must be able to see now.”
When Maureen received her result, she had failed and only scored 12 of the 15 points she needed to qualify for ESA. She was distraught. “I was so upset. I knew I had a mortgage and bills to pay, what I was supposed to live on?” she recounts of the time.
“I have a job to go back to but I have to be physically ready and able to do my job. I was so stressed and angry and upset about everything that my blood pressure was incredibly high and even the doctor was telling me to calm down. All the worry about money wasn’t helping. I went through every emotion possible and it was physically draining.”
Scope’s Employment Services
Maureen was being supported by Scope’s Employment Service, which was working together with her and her employer to make the adjustments needed that would enable her to return to work and be supported in the workplace.
She was also appealing her WCA decision when she was contacted by Scope to share her experiences with the media. Scope has been lobbying hard to raise awareness of the flaws in the system the government is using to test people’s fitness for work and to call on a more appropriate assessment that takes into consideration all the barriers a disabled person will face when trying to get a job.
BBC’s Breakfast News
On the day the Government rolled out the work capability assessment to reassess 1.5 million claimants currently on incapacity benefits, Maureen joined Scope chief executive Richard Hawkes on the sofa on BBC’s Breakfast News programme, where she shared her story with an estimated audience of five million people.
Following her media interview Maureen also contacted Employment Minister Chris Grayling about her appeal. She received a response from the Department of Work and Pension (DWP) who had been passed her query from Chris Grayling.
Less than two weeks later Maureen received a letter from DWP saying that her appeal had been taken into consideration and that she had been awarded ESA.
Maureen says: “The whole process was a real eye opener. I had no idea of the reality of what it’s like to claim benefits before. I’ve always worked and paid my taxes but this whole process was so stressful and every step was a battle. I’m so relieved that I finally get the support I need. It means that I can concentrate on my recovery so I can eventually return back to work.”
“And if for whatever reason things don’t work out and I can’t return back to my job, I will have to start the whole process again and that is deeply worrying.”
Comment from Scope
Ruth Scott, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Scope commented: “We’re delighted that Maureen managed to successfully challenge her work capability assessment and is getting the support that she needs for the time being.
“But there are still thousands of disabled people who are going to be tested for their fitness to work through a flawed system. The government needs to introduce a real world test, one that assesses all the barriers that a disabled person faces when they are looking for work and identifies the support they need to overcome these barriers. Only by building trust in a system that actually works and ensuring people get the support that they need will we see disabled people actually getting jobs as a result.”
Work Capability Assessment - take action
If you have had a negative experience with the Work Capability Assessment yourself and would like to share your experiences with the media, please contact the Scope Media Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7619 7200.
Alternatively if you have an issue that you would like to raise with your MP, you can arrange to meet with them during the Lobby of Parliament on 11 May during the Hardest Hit Protest. Thousands of disabled people and their families will be coming to London to protest and raise their concerns about the impact spending cuts will have on them and their families. You will need to make an appointment with your MP in advance if you want to meet with them face to face on the day.