26 Jan 2014

Million sickness benefit applicants 'fit for work'

Nearly a million people who applied for sickness benefit have been found fit for work, according to figures from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The DWP claims 980,400 people - 32%, of new applicants for Employment and Support Allowance - were judged capable of work between 2008 and March 2013.

More than a million others withdrew their claims after interviews, it adds.

Surely this is a key number.

But disability campaigners said the work tests were "ridiculously harsh and extremely unfair".

There have been a disappointingly large number of cases where people were unreasonably judged fit to work. The DWP has to get on board this. But the principle has to be right.

A spokesman for Disability Rights UK said many of those passed fit will not, in fact, be capable of entering the workplace in any meaningful sense due to physical or mental health problems. "They are finding people fit for work when they aren't and they are not even giving them the support they need to get a job. It is a disgrace," he told BBC News.

Work Capability Assessments were introduced in 2008 to determine who should receive ESA. Decisions are taken by officials at the Department of Work and Pensions using evidence from the assessments, carried out by private contractors such as Atos Healthcare.

The assessment aims to judge how a person's condition limits their ability to work, rather than conferring eligibility for benefits simply because of a certain impairment.

Minister of State for Disabled People Mike Penning said:
As part of the government's long-term economic plan, it is only fair that we look at whether people can do some kind of work with the right support - rather than just writing them off on long-term sickness benefits, as has happened in the past. With the right support, many people with an illness, health condition or disability can still fulfil their aspiration to get or stay in work, allowing them to provide for themselves and their family.
The DWP says those who withdrew their claim after face-to-face interviews with officials either returned to work, recovered or claimed a benefit "more appropriate to their situation".

It says a further 467,400 new ESA claimants were granted the benefit but assessed as being able to work in the future with targeted and extra support.

UPDATE In London, more than a third of those who claimed sickness benefits were found to be fit for work. Over 121,400 people who signed on for the ESA were deemed capable of working after checks and had their payments stopped. Another one in three claimants — 121,700 — dropped their weekly claims ahead of a face-to-face assessment of their ability to work, some because they found jobs and others because they said they no longer felt they required disability benefits.

Apparently we spend more than £13 billion a year on sickness and incapacity benefits for almost 2.5 million of working age.


Anonymous said...

Far too often, its not can you work but do you want to work.

Disability benefits are quite generous if you can get maximum ESA/DLA - up to £250 pw for a single person.

'Depression' is the new bad back and, of course, alcoholics and drug addicts have 'mental health issues'. Keeps the Support Workers in jobs too.

Mishi said...

Part of the problem with all these people having been declared disabled or incabable is down to their GPs - the GPs get extra funding for them so it's in the GPs' interests to write off these people.

Anonymous said...

GPS say we are not here to police the benefit system, so they are happy to give out sick notes.

What ever happened to the 'well notes' - what CAN you do?

John Page said...

That's how it works now, isn't it?