‘Incapacity benefit crackdown begins after pilot scheme’, BBC News, 4 April 2011

April 4, 2011

From BBC  News, 4 April 2011.

The one-and-a-half million people who claim incapacity benefit will start to receive letters this week asking them to be tested on their ability to work.

The new assessments are part of government plans to reduce the number of long-term claimants in a rolling programme through to 2014.

Almost 30% of those who took the test during pilot schemes in Burnley and Aberdeen were declared fit to work.

However, disability charities say many of the assessments are unfair.

But Work and Pensions minister Chris Grayling said: “My message to people who are worried about this process is that this is all about helping those who can return to work.

“It's not about forcing people to return to work, but unless we do the assessments, unless we identify who has that potential, we'll never be able to offer that help.”

During the pilot scheme, a further 39% were assessed as able to work but needing the right support to do so.

Under the initiative, once claimants have had a work capability assessment they will be placed in one of three groups.

Those immediately fit for work will be put on jobseeker's allowance.

Those deemed unable to work because of sickness or disability will be entitled to the highest rate of employment support allowance, and will not be expected to look for work.

A middle section – those who have been long-term unemployed but judged capable of doing some form of work – will be placed in a “work-related activity group”.

They will be expected to take steps to prepare themselves for a return to employment.

Early indications showed 70% of incapacity benefit claimants had the potential to work.

But Mr Grayling told the BBC there were “absolutely no targets attached to this programme”.

“Of course, if we get people back into the workplace it will save money for the taxpayer in the end, but we do not have a financial target.”

He also said the assessments would only be one factor taken into account when determining fitness to work, and even greater emphasis would be placed on expert evidence from a person's GP or consultant.

‘Very blunt'
The fitness-to-work test was changed last year after widespread criticism.

Charities expressed concern that it unduly focused on an individual's physical capacity and ignored other factors such as mental health issues.

They also warned that people were not being given enough help to prepare for the test.

But Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope, told the BBC that changes made since then had not gone far enough.

“This test is a very blunt medical questionnaire where you sit across the room from somebody you've never met before,” he said.

“It just doesn't take into consideration things like fluctuating impairments, or things like ME [chronic fatigue syndrome] where you might not be able to do things over a sustained period of time.”

This was supported by an independent review of the system in November calling for a “more fair and effective” process.

Q&A: Incapacity benefits crackdown explained

2 thoughts on “‘Incapacity benefit crackdown begins after pilot scheme’, BBC News, 4 April 2011”

  1. I am dreading this. I’d love to work, but I’d never find anyone so flexible that they’d want to employ me, and I can’t see access to work paying for me to get cabs there and back all the time…

  2. I am dissapointed that the article you chose to use for your Q&A has errors in it, yes even the BBC have fallen under the avalanche of misinformation and errors that has been targetted against the disabled over the last year.

    Their article states that all that is required for members of the ESA WRAG to return to work is “the right help”, ignoring the fact that the members of the WRAG are deemed to be unfit for work by the DWP, in exactly the same way as members of the ESA Support Group. The “the right help” is of course the miraculous curing of the many members of the WRAG with incurable illnesses and diabilities.

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