Via the Vox Political blog, I learn that it was admitted yesterday by the DWP that there was a backlog of 700,000 assessments for ESA claims. ESA is Employment and Support Allowance, a sickness benefit for those unable to work. 400,000 of the 700,000 backlog are new claims – that is people who feel they are too sick to work have lodged a claim for ESA, but have not had their claim assessed. While they wait, they have to make do with a lower level of benefit. The longer they have to wait to be assessed, the more anxious they are likely to become, risking exacerbating their health problems. The risk of falling into serious hardship also increases the longer they have to wait. The remaining 300,000 will be existing ESA claimants awaiting re-assessment of their claims. Any delay there brings with it the stress and worry of not knowing whether the outcome of this reassessment may mean their ESA is removed altogether.
I raise this now because at the same time, this week there has been wall to wall coverage of the Passport Offices backlog of about 300,000 passport applications. I don’t want to diminish the seriousness of this issue. Delays in processing applications could cause people to miss holidays they had saved up for, to miss weddings, funerals, or job interviews. It needs sorting out. At the same time though, it doesn’t seem in the same league as the ESA backlog, and yet a search for “Passport Office backlog” on Google News yields 13,400 results, while “ESA claims backlog” shows only 7 results.
The Labour Party have been jumping up and down about the passport issue (even though they had the same problems while in office), but on ESA (with a couple of exceptions), they have been silent. I suppose it isn’t surprising they go for the easy option, but it is rather sad.