2.25 million have been sanctioned by the ConDem DWP: After spending £2.2 billion on the ESA regime IDS has managed to get just “Just 1,290 off the sick & into work”

Traffic Lights


The true cost of ESA as a ‘major project’

First Posted by nickd in Mylegal on May 28, 2013


‘The Major Projects Authority: A ‘traffic light’ malfunction?

Yes I reckon so…..

I’m surprised to see how the Government has been awarded a ‘Green light’ by the Major Projects Authority for its financial control of the DWP’s incapacity benefit assessment programme.

I say this in view of how the authority has only sought to focus on the relatively low number of claimants which it has shipped over from the older incapacity benefits on to the much more controversial Employment & Support Allowance.

The ‘whole project’ cost is put at £891.8 million with a budget of £143.6 million being set for 2012/2013, curiously the annual budget forecast for 2012/2013 has seemingly been re-costed to come in at £140.9 million – no doubt this being another ‘cost efficiency’ saving which the government will proudly add to its portfolio.

It has to be said I’m rather curious as to why only a limited number of those assessed under the new Employment & Support Allowance regime become designated a ‘major project’ when there are so many more thousands who fall prey to the dreaded assessment.  The MPA data tells us that the DWP is ‘scheduled to complete’ the programme of incapacity assessments, commenced in October 2010, ‘as planned’ by April 2014. 

Leaving aside the bigger questions relating to the thousands who are repeatedly assessed and the large number of appeals which goes hand in hand with the reassessment programme let’s just stick for now with the numbers coming off incapacity benefits.  A logical starting point is to look at the number on these benefits (there being three to choose from) as of October 2010, this is the ‘starting number’ for those to be moved off incapacity benefits and tested for the replacement allowance by completion date.

October 2010 – number on incapacity benefits = 2,031,930.00

We know from information available from the DWP that by August 2012 the numbers on incapacity benefits had fallen to 1,265,930 – a reduction of 766,000.  

Any reduction in the the claimant count is not quite the same as measuring the number of claimants who exit their benefits but broadly speaking it fits with the 700,000 which the Project Authority says has been assessed, the correct figure is actually 700,200 up to August 2012 according to the DWP assessment figures.  

A certain number won’t qualify, some will come off benefits altogether and despite the older incapacity benefits being phased out from October 2008 some will ‘re – qualify’ for a number of reasons. 

We also know from the DWP that around 44,000 on incapacity benefits are assessed each month, the figures for assessments show that between September 2011 and August 2012 over half a million had been assessed or more precisely 521,800.

The Projects Authority tag an annual cost of around £140 million to the process, logically this should equate to the number of assessments they carry out in the year – the same logic leaves us with a cost per person of around £268.30 per claimant 

What perplexes me is that if we assumed the worst case scenario and applied the £268.30 figure to each of the 2,031,930 claimants due to come off their incapacity benefits from the starting point in October 2010 we would end up with a total ‘all project’ price of £545,166 – a figure which is considerably lower than the Project Authority have allowed for in their estimate for the entire incapacity reassessment programme – a much higher figure of £891,800. 

The DWP know full well how many people they have to assess as they work from projections upon which the costings are based, it therefore does not seem unreasonable to suggest that the individual costs of these assessments must be much higher than allowed for in the latest ‘annual’ budgets.

In short, the overall project cost does not relate to the annual cost per claimant – there’s a discrepancy of well over £300 million pounds.

If we applied the overall project cost of £891,800 and applied it to each of the 2,031,930.00 incapacity claimants, the price per claimant is closer to £439.

If we applied this to 521,800 claimants assessed in a year we get an annual cost of £229 million for one year – considerably above the downgraded forecast of £140 million which the Projects Authority are giving the DWP a green light to.

Here’s how the Projects Authority lays out the DWP’s case for a green light:

Incapacity Benefit Reassessment Remit 

‘The IB (IS) Reassessment Project delivered the reassessment of all Incapacity Benefits claimants, all those claiming Income Support on grounds of incapacity, and working age claimants of Severe Disablement Allowance, for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) using the Work Capability Assessment. Reassessment commenced October 2010 and will complete in 2014. The Project objectives are:

1) IB customers who are assessed as being entitled to ESA gain from a new, simpler, more active benefit – those not entitled will have IB withdrawn. 

2) Everyone who is able, engages with back to work support including through the Work Programme. 

3) Through the Work Capability Assessment, we ensure that the right people are on the right benefit and subject to the appropriate conditionality. 

4) All disabled people and people with health conditions are treated equally over time and receive fair levels of financial support. 

5) Administration on the same systems for all those on incapacity benefits, cutting down on error and dual provision.

6) A transfer to new systems that is as seamless as possible, with claimants’ rate of payment protected as part of the transition and no administration interruption in payment.”

Progress against target is monitored monthly. Published statistics show that up to August 2012 700,000 cases had undergone reassessment with 29% being found fit for work, 41% moved to the ESA Work Related Activity Group, and 30% moved to the ESA Support Group’

Whole project cost £891.8 million

2012/2013 Budget £143.6m
2012/2013 Budget £140.9m

Incapacity Benefit Reassessment is on schedule and is expected to complete as planned in April 2014. 

SOURCE: www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-major-projects-portfolio-data-for-dwp-2013

It just doesn’t add up.

However, lets now look beyond the 700,200 assessed for incapacity benefits, it’s a figure which is a mere drop in the ocean when compared with 1,559,100 claimants assessed for new ESA claims, we also can take a look at the 793,900 ESA claimants who have been ‘repeatedly’ assessed. 

There is also the cost of administering large numbers of ESA claimants who close their claims before the DWP & Atos have got round to assessing people.

Iain Duncan – Smith and the Daily Telegraph recently grabbed headlines over 900,000 closing their claims before assessment.  

The total figure is actually well over a million, but what the DWP never tell you is how long these claimants have been waiting to be assessed – it’s all expenditure. 

I’m baffled as to why the whole of this massive project with a DWP case load of over 4 million claimants is not dubbed a ‘major project’, it’s huge and very much a programme which the authority should be keeping a watchful eye over, it should be overseen in its entirety.  

It seems as though the DWP has been given a green light by an authority watchdog which hasn’t got the first clue over the massive backlog of half a million ESA cases which have not yet been assessed. 

The cost of keeping huge numbers on benefits awaiting assessment must be enormous, we will take a look at how much as this article gathers pace. 


The key to endemic worklessness?



(June 2011 – February 2012)

Incapacity benefit related

4,040 ESA ex IB

2,610 JSA ex IB

Employment & Support Allowance only

37,600 ESA

Voluntary participation groups

9,240 ESA 

4,120 IB/IS

57,610 Total



Incapacity benefit related

3520 ESA ex IB

2250 JSA ex IB

Employment & Support Allowance only

35,410 ESA

Voluntary participation groups

7,010 ESA 

2,220 IB/IS

Total 50,410

Government’s media promoted claim is to tackle ‘endemic worklessness which they continually associate with claimants on longer – term incapacity benefit.

The above figures show how many have been ‘referred’ and how many ‘attached’ to the Work Programme.

A referral is just what it says, some pen – pusher referring someone to the programme and the attachments are those who are well ‘attached’ to it; it’s from here that great things happen as the claimant; having been through the ESA assault course is next exposed to a the wonders of the Work Programme, no doubt attending endless sessions and re-writing CV’s which more and more employers reject in preference to a standardised application form. 

Let’s not be cynical though, let’s home in on all those thousands having an incapacity benefit history who will have been attached to the Work Programme.

Bear in mind we’re talking about 1.9 million incapacity claimants when the assessment programme started you may expect thousands upon thousands to be firmly glued to a Work provider by now:

The results are disappointing
…just 7,990 incapacity attachments

Of which 2,220 were volunteers rather than mandatory attachments.

2250 – JSA/IBS
3520 – ESA/IB

2220 – IB/IS (Voluntary Participation)

7990 – Total

SOURCE: research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/work_programme/wp_release_nov12.pdf

Follow Nick at ilegal and @Mylegalforum on Twitter

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7 thoughts on “2.25 million have been sanctioned by the ConDem DWP: After spending £2.2 billion on the ESA regime IDS has managed to get just “Just 1,290 off the sick & into work”

  1. Stepping Razor Sound Plate says:

    Politics is not politics any more – Fraud is the new politics. Fraud that no one is gonna listen yet alone is going to believe what a disabled person is saying. It is called a non-democracy & coalitions. No one with an A-level can count in government, all scared they will get the sack.

  2. Stepping Razor Sound Plate says:

    And out of 1,290 disabled people getting a job, how many of them were hired as Door Stops !!!

  3. bobchewie says:

    But i already found out who the 900,000 were . They were the hidden unemployed who were placed legitimately on incapacity benefit last year. The 900,000 appear in a document called the true level of unemployed.

  4. AL says:

    There is plenty of money for assessments and appeals and nothing for retraining, confidence building, helping people manage their conditions better so they can work, or assessing what help people would need in the work place so they can work. This is punishment for being sick and disabled. If they wanted us to have better lives and participate in society they would provide help not again cut the training budgets. There is no help, just advisors saying, ‘go and get a job.’

  5. Stepping Razor Sound Plate says:

    It`s a fiddle on the unemployment figures. If a disabled person is found to be fit for work, they should be a unemployment figure.

  6. Bluesky says:

    The 793,900 who are repeatedly reassessed at £150 (each) equates to £1,190,850,00 and this is if they have only been reassessed once. But we all know this happens several times, so the figure is much much higher, more than likely around the 2 million mark.. So to conclude it’s in the interest of ATOS to repeatedly reassess claimants as many times as possible before the bubble bursts, and all this is on top of what the government pay’s them for doing the assessment’s in the first place.

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