Incapacity tests reject 37% of claimants

Sign a0bove disabled parking bay 1.5 million people will be reassessed by spring 2014

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More than a third of incapacity benefit claimants being reassessed for the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have been deemed fit to work.

Of the first 141,100 claimants reviewed since last April, 37% would no longer be paid the benefit, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.

Meanwhile 29% will continue being paid the ESA and will not be expected to work.

And 34% will receive the new benefit but go on a back-to-work programme.

The controversial reviews started across the UK last April and will eventually cover 1.5 million incapacity benefit claimants by early 2014.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said the official figures justified the government's decision in 2010 to press ahead with the wholesale review of incapacity benefit claimants.

These involve the claimants going through the work capability assessments (WCA) that are applied to new applicants.

"To have such a high percentage who are fit for work just emphasises what a complete waste of human lives the current system has been," the minister said.

"We know that for many it will be a long haul back to work but it's much better to help them on the journey than to leave them on benefits for the rest of their lives."

Start Quote

There are still deep flaws with the assessment”

End Quote Richard Hawkes Scope

However the TUC's general secretary, Brendan Barber, said the test was designed purely to kick people off benefits, "whatever the cost".

"It's hardly surprising that a test specifically designed to make fewer people qualify for disability benefits is passing more people as 'fit to work'," he said.

"These tests have deemed terminally ill patients and people with severe disabilities as 'fit to work', are costing taxpayers a small fortune in successful legal appeals and serve no clear benefit to the very people they are supposed to help."


ESA became the new benefit on 31 March 2011 for all new claimants who are unable to work due to incapacity or illness.

Anyone barred from claiming ESA would still be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance if they remained unemployed, said a spokeswoman for the DWP.

Richard Hawkes, of the disability charity Scope, said the latest statistics told only a partial story.

"There have been continuing problems with the work capability assessment which has used a tick box-style assessment to assess people's fitness for work," he said.

"Up to 40% of appeals against a WCA decision have been found in favour of the claimant, suggesting there are still deep flaws with the assessment."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    If 40% of the 37% of the benefit claimants who are assessed fit to work appeal and , of those, 40% are assessed not fit to work, it may be inferred that about 30% of claimants are fit to work, assuming that most of those who have some case for appealing do so, and that the appeal process is thorough and is professionally staffed. Given those assumptions, the current review has considerable merit

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    What people need to realise is that most claimants are automatically placed in the Work Related Activity Group when getting the new ESA.Its based on the assumption most illness's usually get better within 6/12mths.Long term conditions take a bit more sorting due to a complexity of issues.Once the gremlins are sorted the system will be fair to all.It'll sort the wheat from the chaff thats for sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    many of the people who are booted off ESA may be technically 'fit to work' but due to their illnesses and disabilities they are in effect unemployable. The schemes that were in place to provide these people with work (eg Remploy) have been discontinued as 'uneconomic' by this and past governments. Without ESA what are they to do? Starve? Because that is the real prospect facing some people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Having known people who 'acted' ill for years (and later started to believe it) to claim benefits - this figure does not surprise me. In fact I expected it to be higher. Lets stop blaming the current or previous govt & accept the fact it is being abused on many many levels & needs some serious checks & balances.

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    I went on incap. 20 years ago after getting a strangulated hernia working in the NHS. Nobody wants to employ a psychiatric nurse who now has a problem lifting. I now also am a post-operative transsexual and have suffered form depression for 18 years. I have good A levels, 8 o levels, and just finishing a degree. Nobody will want to employ me, so this will just make me even poorer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    BMT - An - Alternative - View
    I have just been thru the new assessment...........

    Congratulations (really). I went through one assessment under the old rules, successful on appeal, then another assessment after 12 months under the old rules-successful. Then one assessment under the new rules-successful on Appeal-after a 7 month wait & half benefit. Fully agree withHenoir99 @ 47

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    My partner could not honestly complete part of the ESA50 form as the question was phrased in such a way that an honest and fair answer about her condition was not possible/avliable. MP took up case with DWP, told the form will be changed at some point in the future..As the condition is fairly common I wonder how many suffers gave inappropriate answers ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    This is great news, now get after all the people who are working cash in hand and signing on or not bothering to work. Time to get rid of all the parasites on society

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    I find all this quite revolting to be honest. All the progress that mankind has made over the years, all the collective help and compassion, man helping his less fortunate neighbour, all sent back to the stone age by vicious Tory ideological cuts. The quaint notion of everyone collectively improving their lot little by little seems to be dying on it's butt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    At last, something is being done about the scrounging few who abuse the system and cost the tax payers a fortune. So long as it doesn't affect the geninue persons; this sort of thing needs pushing out further - unemployment, housing and family benifits and allowances next please.

    People with terminal cancer/on radiotherapy have been found fit for work by Atos.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    When the system is designed to find people 'fit to work' & the people administering the system get paid a bonus for everyone they find 'fit to work' it should come as no surprise that they find a high proportion that are 'fit to work'. All this does is pass money from the genuinely unwell to a private company; who probably donate to the Tories anyway. The UK can no longer claim to be civilised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    If the tests where fair and balanced. Great sadly they are not as the evidence tells. with over 60% of people winning appeals due to poor Atos medicals. if this was happening in the courts we would be very worried.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I am on ESA for severe depression and had to attend a WCA which deemed me fit to work. I appealed and had to wait over a year for the tribunal resulting in massive amounts of stress and worry which meant my depression worsened (2 suicide attempts). The tribunal did not even need to speak to me but made a decision in my favour before I entered the room. The WCA is rigged to fail people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I have just been thru the new assessment I have to say my experience has been good.I recieved the new benefit and placed in the support group.I have a long term,incureable (and potentially life threatening)medical condition and my assessment was based on medical reports from specillists not just the tick box form.It took 3mths for the decision but it was the right decision and thats what counts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    point 1 - the article doesn't mention the appeals rate (which I believe is 60% out of that initial 37%) who successfully win and have benefits reinstated plus back pay

    point 2 - No one who claims DLA gets a "free car" on mobility, that car has to be paid for using the mobility payment from the DLA money (up to £60pw + fuel money).

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Lead swingers of the world unite, Why should the bone idle be victimised ? Stand up ( or should I say lie down ) against those Tory Fascist !

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    What the statistics do not give are the percentage of claimants that went on to appeal against a negative decision, and the percentage of such appeals that were successful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    At last, something is being done about the scrounging few who abuse the system and cost the tax payers a fortune. So long as it doesn't affect the geninue persons; this sort of thing needs pushing out further - unemployment, housing and family benifits and allowances next please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Comment 31 shows how people don't understand the ESA system. If you are found ineligible for ESA (it's incorrect to say 'fit for work' as this is not tested) it's not like being given a job to go to. You still have no prospect of work, still have the disability to deal with, all that changes is your money is stopped and you are thrown to the wolves.


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