Download the Benefits Survey Infographic as PDF.


This survey was undertaken by the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) to identify and further understand the impacts of the changes to disability benefit assessments. It was aimed at those with musculoskeletal conditions (MSK) over the age of 16, and was opened from 3 December 2014 and closed on 31 January 2015. It was conducted using Survey Monkey and distributed to people with MSK via organisations which are members of ARMA. Read more of the survey’s specifications.

Overall, the survey showed that most people found the process of claiming benefits to be stressful and difficult. Assessors appear to have limited knowledge of MSK and the affect that they have on people’s day to day life.

Key messages

  • Work Capability Assessments (WCA) are not always necessary when a large amount of information and supporting documentation from health professionals has been submitted.
  • Conditions are not understood at the WCA, particularly for fluctuating conditions which can change from day to day. Applicants are often left feeling fraudulent.
  • Health is adversely affected by the process – both completing the forms and attending WCA. This can be in the form of stress or physically. In many cases the exam causes physical pain.
  • The length of time the processes take can cause extreme financial hardship, leaving many destitute.
  • Few are given the help that they need to get back to work having been found fit for work.

Click an image to open a slideshow of graphs.


“The questions were very long and sometimes a little confusing. It was necessary to complete the form bit by bit over a couple of weeks.”

“So much detailed information needed. Support needed from GP, letters from family. Also do they take into consideration pain?
Repeatability? I cannot write very well, and mental stress going over my inabilities led to further depression.”

“I find filling forms difficult as I have a problem taking in information and understanding and remembering it…”

“Tiresome contradictions.”

“You are made to feel like a fraud…
There is no understanding whatsoever of my condition.”

“Very long, overcomplicated and asks us for information better required from medical professionals.”

“Confusion over the meanings of questions, misleading information requested.”

“Letters were ignored until the austerity measures were introduced and then the entire DLA was stopped.”


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Survey Specifications

There were 502 respondents in total. 12 were disqualified immediately as they did not have an MSK or were not over 16. The total number to qualify for the survey was 490.


The Key Messages, Summary and survey data were compiled and arranged by Jill Hamilton, Development Manager, National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society.

Click here the document icon to download a copy of the full questions, analysis, data and more respondents’ comments.