The Government’s aim of helping people with disabilities and long-term health conditions back into work is “laudable”, but the process is causing much “anxiety” among benefit claimants, a group of MPs has concluded.
A report by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee found the incapacity benefit (IB) reassessment is not yet fully understood by claimants, putting the Government’s objectives at risk.
It said that the “positive messages about the IB reassessment are not getting through to the public” and the Government needs to be “proactive” in explaining the aims of the process and support available to claimants.
Current incapacity benefit claimants are being reassessed to determine if they are able to work.
If they are deemed fit for work, assistance is given to find a job through the Government’s new welfare to work scheme, the Work Programme. Those found not fit for work are moved on to the new benefit Employment and Support Allowance.
Committee chair Dame Anne Begg said: “The Government’s aim of helping benefit claimants back into work is laudable, but the scale of the challenge should not be underestimated and nor should the level of anxiety which surrounds the process. People are suspicious that the Government’s only objective is to save money.”
It added “care” needs to be taken in Government communications to stress that being found fit for work is a positive outcome and should not be interpreted as “failing the test”.
The report said it is “widely accepted” that the Work Capability Assessment – the test used to assess whether an incapacity benefit claimant is capable of work – as introduced in 2008 was “flawed” and this had been borne out in the high number of appeals.
Charity Rethink Mental Illness said the report echoes many of its concerns relating to the reassessment.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “It is vital that we also support people who were written off to a lifetime on benefits into jobs and our new Work Programme will help them overcome the barriers they face to get back into work. We are committed to continuously improving the Work Capability Assessment through a series of independent reviews.”