Doctor 'shocked' by benefits system
The system for claiming sickness benefits is deliberately complicated to reduce the number of claims, a GP has suggested.
Dr Anne Dyson said the system is so complex it is likely to fail the people who are most in need of help.
Dr Dyson, who works as a general practitioner in South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, said she was "shocked" by the bureaucracy of the system after trying to claim employment and support allowance following a breast cancer diagnosis.
Due to her illness and subsequent treatment, she has been unable to work since July and wanted to claim the benefit. Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Dr Dyson, who has worked as a GP since 1986, described her experience.
She said she was surprised to find that she could not complete an online form but instead had to ring an 0845 number, was put on hold for 30 minutes and then had to complete a 40-minute interview.
Dr Dyson said a form was sent for her to check and sign but contained basic errors, which meant she had to spend a length of time calling the same number to rectify them. She also had to provide various forms and certificates which had to be processed before she could access her claim.
She said: "I do not feel ill or unwell as such, otherwise I might not have had the strength and perseverance to persist with my claim. And nor do I have hearing loss or a speech impairment, which would make a telephone interview impossible.
"It is a scandal that the system is so complicated. It is likely to fail the very people who are most in need of help. I suspect this may be a deliberate Government ploy to reduce the number of benefit claims and reduce the overall cost of welfare. If so this should be publicised and shown for what it is - the Government withholding funds from sick and needy people through a bureaucratic claim system."
A Department of Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: "It is simply not true that the Government is trying to stop people claiming benefits through the process of applying for ESA. In assessing someone's claim for benefit we need detailed information of their medical condition and circumstances to establish whether they are eligible for the support.
"We offer a number of ways to fill out the claim form: by an 0800 telephone number, by textphone for those with hearing or speech problems or a form that can be filled in online and put in the post."