Labour MP Dr Ian Gibson been firing off questions to Government ministers about Incapacity Benefit and ME.
He asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps he would be taking to ensure that employment and support allowance assessments take account of the characteristics of different health conditions, with particular reference to the fluctuations inherent in symptomatic severity of myalgic encephalopathy; and if he would make a statement.
Stephens Timms, Minister of State for Employment and Welfare Reform: "The new Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance will be a fair, robust and accurate assessment of limited capability for work which takes account of all conditions, including those that are long term and that fluctuate such as myalgic encephalopathy.
"The Work Capability Assessment is not a snapshot of a person’s condition on the day of the assessment. In assessing whether a person can carry out any given activity, health care professionals must take into account the person’s condition over a reasonable period of time. They must take into account the effects of symptoms such as pain and fatigue. In this way the Work Capability Assessment takes account of the effects of fluctuating conditions.
"If there is a change in a person’s disabling condition, there will be a provision to refer the person to an approved healthcare professional so that we can determine afresh whether or not the person has limited capability for work, or limited capability for work-related activity".
Work Capability Assessment
Dr Gibson also asked the Work and Pension Secretary if he would review the process by which assessments are made of whether people with myalgic encephalopathy may receive benefits; what account the process takes of the rate of successful appeals against decisions to deny benefits in such cases; and if he would make a statement.
This time the questions were answered by Mrs Anne McGuire, Minister of State for Disabled People, who replied:
"We have already reviewed the process for assessing whether people with medical conditions, including myalgic encephalopathy, may receive incapacity benefits.
"The new work capability assessment for employment and support allowance will be a fair, robust and accurate assessment of limited capability for work which takes account of all conditions, including those that are long-term and that fluctuate such as myalgic encephalopathy.
"Updated medical guidance on myalgic encephalopathy for disability living allowance decision makers was published in July 2007. There are no current plans for further revision of the process.
"The process for employment and support allowance and disability living allowance does not take account of the rate of successful appeals. However, we will continue to monitor new research and evidence, including relevant case law, in this area."