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1m people who applied for sickness benefit have been found 'fit for work'

By The Citizen  |  Posted: January 26, 2014

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Almost a million people who applied for sickness benefit have instead been found fit for work, according to figures published today.

A third (32%) of all new claimants for employment and support allowance (ESA) were assessed as being fit to work and capable of employment between October 2008 and March 2013 - totalling 980,400 people, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.

More than a million others withdrew their claims before reaching a face-to-face assessment - this can be because of individuals recovering and either returning to work, or claiming a benefit more appropriate to their situation.

A DWP spokesman said that reforming the benefits system is a key part of the Government's long-term economic plan to build a stronger economy.

ESA ensures support is provided for those unable to work while those declared fit are given help to find employment, he added.

Under the old system, 2.6 million people were on the old-style incapacity benefits when ESA was introduced in 2008.

In August 2010, 900,000 had been claiming the sickness benefit for more than a decade.

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 employment rate for disabled people has increased gradually over the years to 45%, the spokesman said.

A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken by DWP decisionmakers based on all of the available evidence.

Many claimants will be assessed by an independent health professional as part of the process. All the supporting medical evidence from GPs and specialists is taken into account.

ESA is an income replacement benefit provided to people of working age who are too ill to work because of a health condition or disability.

Some 2.49 million people were on ESA and old-style incapacity benefits as of May 2013.

ESA replaced incapacity benefit, income support and severe disablement allowance for new claimants from October 2008.

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the disability charity Scope, said the work capability assessment (WCA) should be more than an exercise in getting people off benefits.

He said: "The fit for work results are only half the story.

"We should be talking about getting a million more disabled people into work.

"Disabled people are pushing hard to find jobs and get on in the workplace. Nine in 10 disabled people work or have worked. Yet only about 50% of disabled people have a job right now.

"They face massive challenges when it comes to finding and staying in work.

"The WCA should be more than an exercise in getting people off benefits. It should make sure disabled people get the specialist, tailored and flexible support they need to find and keep a job.

"We need to make sure that as the economy picks up disabled people are not left behind. We've got to start by supporting more disabled people to find and stay in work."

ends

Philip Connolly, policy manager for Disability Rights UK, said: "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.

"People should go online and read the test, and judge for themselves whether the test is fair. They will almost always come to the conclusion that it is not."

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6 comments

  • Richardburton  |  January 27 2014, 7:26PM

    Does these figures include the people who were said to be capable of work ...but have since died?????

    Rate   4
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  • Glawsbutty  |  January 27 2014, 1:49PM

    How many of the 1m have had their benefit reinstated on appeal?

    Rate   4
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  • Douglasknows  |  January 27 2014, 11:21AM

    GP's have been accused of giving in to pressure from a patient to get themselves signed as unfit to work so I think its a good idea to get independent government assessors to be the ones that makes the decision.

    Rate   -9
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  • daisy_daff  |  January 27 2014, 9:50AM

    this assessment process is just one big con and has been designed to get as many off benefit altogether or on to lower benefit. its a computerised tick box assessment and rarely do the 'independent' assessors take in to account the persons actual health/disability issues. the final decision is made by a dwp employee who usually go by the guidance of the assessor. the assessment has also been deemed by a judge to be unfair on those with mental health issues which the government is appealing against. many charities, doctors and back bench mps from all parties have asked for the process to be scrapped and a fairer assessment be put in place but unfortunately government will not back down as the sole purpose is to chuck people off benefits regardless of their health issues. even terminally ill cancer patients have to go through the process which is madness and a complete waste of money. as for help and support getting people back to work, well thats just another big expensive con. the work providers are taking the money but giving very little back in terms of support. its a complete shambles and many people are suffering big time because of it. a fairer system needs to be thought of and this present one scrapped.

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  • MrGarnet  |  January 26 2014, 6:54PM

    More spin. The real figure is far lower. http://tinyurl.com/pm427hv

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  • gloscityguy  |  January 26 2014, 2:18PM

    It doesn't mention that you need to have your doctor sign you off if you receive incapacity benefits. so when the DWP brings in their own doctors to assess whether someone is fit for work, they only test to test if someone is physically able, ie can see, or lift arms above head. they don't test to see if there are other circumstances to why this person is unfit for work. While a small percentage of people misuse the system, like they do in any system, I would rather have a doctor who knows the patient on a long term basis, and knows their medical record to be the doctor that judges if someone is unfit for work or not. A doctor, essentially hired to make the figures look better, and who has to see 40 different cases a day, will no doubt not be able to judge each case properly. and you find that a lot of people who already have to struggle in life, like many of us never truly have to worry about, end up having their benefits stopped when it turns out they are unfit for work even though deemed physically able to by the DWP. let the doctors decide, not the government. as unlike politicians they don't have to massage the figures to please the general public, they don't need to stay in power to continue making dodgy expenses claims, they just put the health of their patients first.

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