The shock figures, from research by leading charities, are the latest blow to the credibility of employment tests
More than four in 10 jobless people with crippling life-long illnesses are being told they will get better – and must seek work.
The shock figures, from research by leading charities, are the latest blow to the credibility of employment tests ordered by the Government.
Parkinson’s UK said the results of the Work Capability Assessment, done by French firm Atos, “defy belief”.
The charity accused the Government of an “unspeakable failure” to support the most vulnerable.
Between 2008 and 2011, 13,600 people with cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or rheumatoid arthritis applied for out-of-work benefit the Employment Support Allowance.
But according to research from Parkinson’s UK, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, the MS Society and the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, 45% were told they were able to recover to the point where they could look for work.
The charities called for ministers to rethink the “hugely flawed” system.
Parkinson’s sufferer Jim Grimwood had to give up his job as a computer programmer after 20 years.
Jim, 58, from the North Pennines, said: “It was six years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s that I was finally forced to give up work.
“After the first ESA assessment they said I should be able to work within three months. I was flabbergasted.
“Last year I applied for ESA again as my Parkinson’s had got worse.
“I was told I should be able to return to work in 18 months. I asked to be reassessed but the DWP refused.”
He said his condition prevented him from doing even basic things, let alone a job.
Caroline Hacker, of Parkinson’s UK, said:
“This is the latest in a long line of unspeakable failures by Atos Healthcare and the Government to support those who need it most.
“To tell people who’ve had to give up work because of a debilitating progressive condition that they’ll recover is farcical and defies belief.”
The Department for Work and Pensions denied those with degenerative conditions are told they will recover.
But added: “There is strong evidence working can be beneficial for many people who have a health condition.”
Atos said: “Our staff are trained to assess chronic and progressive conditions.
“However, the advice we give DWP concentrates on how individuals are at present. Decisions are made by DWP.”
Atos admits it conducts around 17% of WCAs without face-to-face assessment.