UP TO 1,000 people in Merseyside had their incapacity benefits taken away despite being too ill to work.
Data obtained by the ECHO shows that one in three people in the region who appealed against the government’s decision that they are “fit for work” were being put back on the benefit.
The Department for Work and Pensions claims that the decisions to overturn the original assessment was not proof that the initial finding was incorrect, but that people sometimes presented new evidence at the appeal stage.
But pressure groups said the figures suggested many more people may be having their help snatched away unfairly.
One Liverpool man told the ECHO he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour that was ruining his sight and so he was unable to continue his driving job.
But his assessment – which lasted just four minutes – found he was fit for work.
Barry Haney, 45, said: “I showed the guy a letter which showed I was going into hospital the next day, but he said there was nothing wrong with me.
“This guy seemed to think he knew better than all the neurologists I’ve seen.
“What does being able to bend down and touch my toes have to do with having a brain tumour?”
The figures obtained by the ECHO under the Freedom of Information Act show that between 2008 and 2010, 32% (920) of decisions to cut “employment support allowance” – as the benefit is now called – were overturned on appeal.
Mental health charity Mind’s policy officer Tom Pollard said people with mental health problems were particularly vulnerable to being wrongly assessed.
He added: “The picture in Merseyside is very similar to what we are seeing all over the country.
“It could be that even more people are unhappy with the decision, but don’t have the help they need in order to lodge an appeal. “
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been reviewed by an independent leading occupational health expert, Professor Malcolm Harrington, who made a number of recommendations on improving the assessment, all of which have been accepted by the DWP.
“We expect Prof Harrington’s recommendations will make the WCA a fairer and more effective assessment, and will ultimately result in a decrease in the number of decisions going to appeal.”