New figures show the proportion of disabled people found eligible for unconditional support under the much-criticised “fitness for work” regime is continuing to rise.
The figures suggest that improvements to the work capability assessment (WCA) – which tests eligibility for employment and support allowance (ESA), the replacement for incapacity benefit – are beginning to take effect.
Rather than focusing on the improvements, the Conservative employment minister Chris Grayling said the figures showed “the majority of new claimants to sickness benefits are in fact able to do some work”.
But the figures show that Grayling may not be able to continue making that claim for much longer.
>From June to August last year, about 27 per cent of new claimants were placed in the support group, for those with limited capability for work-related activity, with another 19 per cent placed in the work-related activity group, for those with lower support needs who are expected to move gradually towards work. Both groups receive ESA.
The other 54 per cent of those whose WCAs had been completed were found fit for work.
The number found fit for work is likely to fall even further once the results of appeals have been included.
When the WCA was first introduced, just 11 per cent of new claimants were placed in the support group, with 65 per cent found fit for work.
The figures provide fresh evidence of the unfairness of the original WCA, introduced in 2008 by the Labour government.
Disabled activists believe the WCA is still inflexible and unfair, despite the changes aimed at improving the test, many of them as a result of independent reviews by Professor Malcolm Harrington.
The report itself suggests the “downward trend” in claimants assessed as fit for work could be due to the improvements made to the test.
But no-one from DWP was available to say whether Grayling welcomed the rise in the number of disabled people being found not fit for work.
26 April 2012