The above portrait, by our campaign patron Maria Rud, may be viewed in our new Gallery: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/gallery/ ~ We will be adding more artwork, literature and poetry to this new section to our website in the coming months.
Blind and partially sighted people losing benefits
By Nicky Broyd WebMD UK Health News: Medically Reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson
2nd July 2012
The charity RNIB says it has major concerns about the fairness and effectiveness of the test designed to assess who is eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which is replacing Incapacity Benefit.
It says blind and partially sighted people are losing out on support and entitlement simply because the test lacks questions relevant to sight loss.
The RNIB says the new ‘fit for work’ test is not fit for purpose and the face-to-face assessment process is flawed.
ESA is worth £94.25 a week for a single person in the Work Related Activity Group.
Fit for work
According to the Citizens Advice Bureau assessment for ESA includes ‘special circumstances’ in which claimants can automatically be considered as eligible for the benefit. Under Incapacity Benefit, being registered blind was seen as a ‘special circumstance’ but that is no longer the case with ESA.
In order to be eligible for ESA a person has to score at least 15 points when undergoing a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). There have already been problems with this test for blind and partially sighted people. In November last year guidance was revised when it was realised that in order to score 15 points a person had to have both sight and hearing impairment.
Even with that change the RNIB says it still has serious concerns about the test because it provides no reliable way to judge the barriers to work a blind or partially sighted person might experience and it says inadequate decisions are being made about blind and partially sighted people’s capability for work. For example it says one of the activities looks at a person’s ability to pick something up and move it but fails to account for whether they can see it or know where to safely place it.
On its website, the RNIB tells the story of Anthony who had two strokes, the second of which left him with weakness down his right side, poor balance, speech difficulties and loss of vision. The healthcare professional who carried out his WCA determined that he had a ‘mild vision problem’ despite the fact he was registered blind at the time. He scored no points and his ESA was terminated. Months later the decision was overturned by an appeal tribunal.
The RNIB says there are many people like Anthony who lose out and risk never receiving the support they should.
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions told us via e-mail: “Under the old system of incapacity benefit too many lives were written off. When the Work Capability Assessment was introduced in 2008 it was not fit for purpose. This is why we are implementing all the recommendations made by our independent reviewer to make this a better and fairer process. We want to keep improving the WCA so keep it under review.”
The RNIB says under the current system blind and partially sighted people are finding themselves written off through no fault of their own and it is encouraging people to complain about the changes to their MP.