‘Up to 500,000 wrongly denied Incapacity Benefit’ – The Guardian, 3 January 2011

January 5, 2011


From The Guardian, 3 January 2011 (story by political correspondent Allegra Stratton)

Survey by Compass, which used official DWP statistics, says 300,000 claimants won their tribunals when they appealed

Up to 500,000 people have been wrongly judged fit for work and disallowed incapacity benefit over the past 15 years, according to a study for Compass, the left wing campaign group.

In the first attempt to quantify the numbers refused incapacity benefit only to have it restored, Steve Griffiths, a former government consultant, says the figures are “at least half a million” during that period.

Griffiths used official statistics gleaned from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the tribunal service and social security statistics to get to “at least” 500,000 wrongly barred from incapacity benefit since 1996.

He discovered that at least 300,000 claimants won their tribunals when they appealed. He says this figure should be added to a different category of at least 200,000 people who have been refused incapacity benefit over the past 15 years but have ended up back on incapacity benefit. He arrives at this second figure by using DWP research that finds 35% of those removed from incapacity benefit – who cumulatively number more than one million people – have been in such a position.

The government will shortly receive the results of two pilot studies of its tests for incapacity benefit, intended to be adopted in April when it will begin processing the 2.2 million people on incapacity benefit at a possible rate of 10,000 a week.

Campaigners are concerned the historic errors in the system, revealed today , will continue to wrongly disallow substantial numbers.

The Labour backbencher Jon Cruddas called for a pause in this particular aspect of the government's crackdown.

He said: “There is a crisis in our country, but it's not simply a crisis of welfare dependency. It's a crisis of mass chronic ill health caused by worklessness and poverty, not a lifestyle choice.

“Economic crisis encourages a search for scapegoats among the poor and dispossessed. A punitive welfare system is a consequence. Labour has to change the terms of debate on welfare in this country or we will inexorably head down a dangerous path toward hate politics and social conflict.”

The government plans to find economies of at least £16bn from the £195bn welfare budget. In opposition Tories indicated more than 1.5 million people could be helped back into work. However, there have been reports recently that the government now believes a lower number – one in 4 – will be returned to work.

A review by the academic Malcolm Harrington, published in November, advised the government that its method of assessing work capability was “inadequate”. The medical tests were “impersonal and mechanistic” and failed those with mental illnesses and long-term disabilities.

The government has endorsed the Harrington Review, but the Disability Alliance has expressed disappointment that only a quarter of its recommendations will be implemented by the time April's rollout starts. They called it an “ineffective test” operating at “substantial and material cost”.

5 thoughts on “‘Up to 500,000 wrongly denied Incapacity Benefit’ – The Guardian, 3 January 2011”

  1. Has anyone seen that disgusting programme on BBC1 called “Saints and Scroungers”? (on at 11am).

    It reinforces the notion that anyone on benefits must be a “scrounger” instead of possibly having a debilitating neuro-immune disease which has been untreated by the government for decades therefore they have just been left to rot and are unable to work due to debilitating mental/physical incapacity.

    On the other hand rich tax-dodgers cost this country way more than benefit cheats. Yet the media almost never mention this fact. I wonder why?

    The present right-wing government has openly declared war on the weak and vulnerable, despite the fact that the recession was caused by the rich greedy bankers.

    Don’t you just love this country.

  2. Hi, Garcia,
    I did not see this programme but the BBC have been criticised about the tone of such programmes before.

    Such a programme could breach the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities which states that disabled people have the same rights as everyone else to freedom, respect, equality and dignity.
    In addition as a public body the BBC has legal obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act to prevent harassment of disabled people.
    Such programmes which present disabled people as benefit scroungers and cheats have been criticised as inciting predjudice against this group of people and could put the BBC in breach of the Act.

    see http://www.equalityhumanrights.com disability equality
    and UN convention on the Rights of Disabled People.

    1. I have seen this day-time series. It does undermine people on benefits but not overtly so in my opinion.

      It’s title is contentious I agree but they highlight already proven incidences of ‘scroungers’ i.e. people illegitimately claimed benefit including disability or long-term illness benefit.

      I agree though it does give the impression that benefit fraud is widespread and it does not seem to feature unemployment benefit fraud as much as it does disability benefit.

      The ‘Saints’ are also misrepresented and by that I mean that ‘they’ are seldom including as being honest and deserving claimants. Also they are presented as being an ‘exception’ rather than the rule.

      It does give wholly the ‘wrong’ impression. Mum and I no longer even bother watching. It is biased and wrong. I would complain but have too much else on my plate at the moment… c’est la vie!

  3. I was disallowed IB because I rested for a week before the medical so that I would be well enough to attend. I also went alone. For my appeal and for the next IB medical I went for a walk the night before and I was desperately ill so the doctors could see what I was like on a bad day. I also brought my husband and he took notes. I haven’t had a medical since and that was about five years ago. Many people, as I did at first, trust the system to be fair and it isn’t, so you have to learn how to use the system in order to get what you are entitled to because the DWP will not help you.

    1. I agree Eleanor. These ‘tests’ including the Work Capability Assessment require – wrongly – great thought and understanding beforehand.

      One can no longer rely on them being impartial or even honest. They are inadequate to say the least. I could go on but have not the time or inclination any more.

      I hope Harrington’s review will lead to improvements – I doubt it but I hope so.

      I am just trying to complete my Work Capability Questionnaire – have been trying for 4 days now. What a wholly inadequate document that is! I really despair. Really…

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