DAA News Network

UK: Report finds capacity for work test unfair, insensitive and inaccurate

Posted 24/3-10 at 21.05

An excellent report published on March 23rd by the Citizens Advice Bureau has found, "People with serious illnesses and disabilities who could not reasonably be expected to work are being found fit for work."

In 2008, Incapacity Benefit was replaced by the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It was claimed that the change would give more help to people wanting to get back to work. A new work test was introduced to support the ESA.

The CAB report shows that in practice the test has been extremely insensitive to the complex reality of differing impairments - especially pain and the impact of fluctuating conditions. People with mental health problems and those with learning difficulties were also being especially disadvantaged.

The report calls for a full review of the new testing regime. The government has responded by claiming, as they often do when such criticisms are leveled, that changes are already being made to ensure greater accuracy. In the meantime, they are also pushing ahead with plans to start testing the 2 million people getting the old Incapacity Benefit. The Department of Work and Pensions statement says, "In order to lift millions from a lifetime of benefit dependency, doctors will assess 10,000 long term sickness benefit claimants each week."

Editorial comment:

From the beginning, it has been obvious that the new benefits regime had little to do with ‘liberating' disabled people from so-called benefits dependency, getting them into work, or stopping fraudulent claims. It has all been about the bottom line, saving money. No matter the immense hardship and distress this has caused to seriously ill and disabled people, already the poorest group in society.

Furthermore, for every tabloid story of someone abusing the disability benefit system, there are 100's of other stories ( many recounted in the CAB report) of people being terribly abused by that system. These stories rarely if ever make the front pages, or indeed any pages, of the newspapers.

Many disabled people want to get into or back to work. What is needed is a system that really supports us in a fair and flexible manner. What we don't need is the ramshackle one on offer, designed to cut government spending whatever the cost to the wellbeing of disabled people. It is obscene. It is a disgrace.



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