Government must create jobs, not blame sick and disabled for being out of work

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date: 11 February 2011

embargo: For immediate release

Commenting on findings from the government's incapacity benefit reassessment programme published today (Friday) by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

'While we welcome the government's commitment to implement the Harrington Review to improve the operation of work capability assessments, these trials were carried out under the old system where 40 per cent of appeals were upheld, due to problems the government acknowledges still exist.

'Even among those who do not appeal, many of the people judged as 'fit for work' in these trials are disabled, and will face additional barriers moving into the jobs market - particularly as they are likely to have spent a long period out of work and live in areas where unemployment is high.

'With more than five unemployed people now chasing every job vacancy, whether or not people get back into work will depend upon the economy starting to grow

'Instead of blaming sick and disabled people for being out of work the government needs to stop cutting back on support for unemployed people and start focusing on creating jobs.'


- The DWP's findings are available at

- Case study

Sue Hutchings: While not from the area of the pilots, Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2009. She had an operation to remove the lump on 14 August but unfortunately the surgery scar became infected. At a follow up appointment, Sue was told the cancer had spread beyond the original excision and she would have to have more tissue taken. She was prescribed antibiotics for the infection through to the end of September. During this time, she received and completed her ESA50 form, stating that she had breast cancer and was undergoing surgical treatment. On 7 October she had a pre-op appointment and further surgery was booked for the following week. Sue had her ESA medical with Atos Origin Ltd on 8 October and told them she was still recovering from surgery and had further surgery booked for 12 October. Sue's GP had provided her with a sick note and all the supporting medical evidence requested by the DWP. Sue offered to show this medical evidence and her scar, but the Atos Origin Ltd nurse refused to look. Sue had her surgery and thought everything had gone well. At a follow up appointment on 4 November with her consultant Sue was told the cancer had spread again and she would need a full mastectomy. Despite this, upon receiving the report back from Atos Origin Ltd the DWP decision maker decided that Sue 'could not be treated as having limited capability for work.' Sue received her '0 points' letter on 12 November 2009. She appealed and a revision of the decision was carried out. She won on the grounds that exceptional circumstances regulations should have been applied. Sue is now in remission.

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