A succession of sick notes

Dear Iain Duncan Smith,

I’m writing about ESA and my seventeen year old son, LB. I know the process and procedures around claiming ESA are framed by a ‘scrounger’ rhetoric. Underpinned by the constant questioning of the integrity of those who are unable to work. I also know this is a spurious position; under-claims are greater than over-claims or fraud. We have so far had to provide two sick notes over six months (well three really because we had to get one to cover the 3 month backdated period). I think then an ‘indefinite’ sick note will do. I have tried hard to understand why this is necessary. What is underpinning the blanket need for a succession of sick notes? Is it simply a tool of attrition? The ‘scroungers’ will be worn down by having to return to their GP three times? GPs, in turn, will surveil their patients more closely for signs of cheating or trickery? I don’t know.

I didn’t want to get a sick note for LB. I didn’t want to because he isn’t sick. I didn’t want to because we have a ton of official paperwork highlighting and poring over his ‘deficits’ in micro detail from a gaggle of professionals; geneticists, ed psychs, paediatricians, teachers, social workers, psychiatrists…the list is endless.

I didn’t want to because it made me feel sad.

I found it more upsetting when I found out, through the allowance stopping as soon as it started, that I needed to go back for a second note. And then, again, after the reinstated allowance stopped, a third note. Perhaps if you had made it clear that three notes would be needed at the start, it would have been easier. But then I suspect my GP would have written the three on the spot, negating the need to return to the surgery (and take up his time). You may have been trying to close that loophole by deliberately making the process opaque.

Oh. I should probably add that I went to the surgery. Not LB. His GP doesn’t need to see him to know that he has learning difficulties. I wasn’t going to put him through the experience of being given a ‘sick note’ by the GP. He wouldn’t really understand that and he can get anxious going to the doctors. So it’s all a charade really. With a touch of farce.

I’m writing really to ask if you could try to get over your fixation with (fictitious) ‘scroungers’ and, instead, gain some understanding of how the process is experienced by disabled people, or their carers. And maybe shift the money invested into such a clunky, laborious and inefficient system into supported employment programmes that actually work in practice. LB wants to work. He is hoping to become an assistant caretaker.

Yours sincerely,



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