Most claimants denied sickness benefit
Threequarters of sickness benefit claimants are found fit to work or abandon their claims before completing their medical assessment, latest figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have revealed. However, initial assessments of people's fitness to return to the workplace have been overturned in almost four in 10 cases in which individuals appealed. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) replaced incapacity benefit and income support for new claimants in October 2008, and was accompanied by a work capability assessment (WCA) - a computerised test the government's own advisers last year conceded was seriously flawed and 'a complete mess' (Risks 496). If found fit to work, an individual can no longer claim ESA, but they can ask for the decision to be reviewed or launch an appeal. The DWP figures, which cover the period from 27 October 2008 to 31 August 2010, show that 887,300 of the 1,175,700 applicants for ESA failed to qualify for any assistance. Of these, 458,500 (39 per cent) were judged fit to work, while 428,800 (36 per cent) ditched their claim. A further 16 per cent were placed in the "work-related activity group", where individuals are deemed able to take on some level of work but still receive a level of ESA support. They are also required to undertake training and face pressure to find suitable work (Risks 500). Over one-third (36 per cent) of people who made a claim for ESA between October 2008 and February 2010 and were found to be fit to work at assessment have appealed, with the original decision overturned in almost four in 10 cases (39 per cent). Employment minister Chris Grayling said: 'We now know very clearly that the vast majority of new claimants for sickness benefits are in fact able to return to work. That's why we are turning our attention to existing claimants, who were simply abandoned on benefits.' He added: 'That's why we are reassessing all of those claimants, and launching the Work Programme to provide specialist back to work support. We will, of course, carry on providing unconditional support to those who cannot work, but for those who can it's right and proper that they start back on the road to employment.
Issued: 6 May, 2011