The government has given its first estimate of the number of people claiming long-term incapacity benefit (IB) who they expect will be found “fit for work” when reassessed using a controversial new test.
The work capability assessment (WCA) was introduced for new claimants of out-of-work disability benefits in October 2008, but the first pilot schemes to reassess disabled people already claiming IB will start next month in Aberdeen and Burnley.
Anne Begg, the disabled Labour MP who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee, told work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith this week that she was concerned about her constituents in Aberdeen who claim IB and are set to be reassessed.
She said she was also worried that the government’s new Work Programme would not be running until after the pilot schemes had ended.
Duncan Smith, who was giving evidence to her committee, said he “recognised the problem” and would ask employment minister Chris Grayling to talk to her and “see if there are any measures we can take”.
He said his department had estimated that about 23 per cent of those on IB who are reassessed would be found fit for work.
He said the others would be able to claim the new employment and support allowance (ESA) – the replacement for IB – with an estimated 58 per cent to be moved to the work-related activity group, and about 19 per cent placed in the support group for those who do not have to do any work-related activity.
This compares with government figures which show that of new ESA claimants who have completed the WCA, two thirds (66 per cent) have been found fit for work and ineligible for ESA, with 24 per cent in the work-related activity group, and just ten per cent placed in the support group.
The evidence session came as the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) and Disability Alliance (DA) made serious criticisms of the WCA in their submissions to two public consultations.
UKDPC, responding to an independent review of the WCA, called on the government to do more to address the barriers in society that prevent disabled people finding work, such as discrimination by employers, inaccessible workplaces and the lack of accessible transport.
As well as a series of criticisms of the test, it warned that further cuts to social care funding “may prevent disabled people being able to get out of bed and actually go to work even if they are deemed to be fit for work”.
DA, responding to an investigation by the social security advisory committee into proposed government changes to the WCA, also made a series of criticisms and said that the test fails to “adequately reflect the impact of impairments on disabled people’s day to day living”, while the changes “could well result in the problems increasing”.
16 September 2010