50,000 across North-East and North Yorkshire to lose sickness benefit

Incapacity Benefit By Authority
 
8:50am Saturday 21st April 2012 in CatterickPhotograph of the Author By Rob Merrick

UP to 50,000 people will be forced off sickness benefits across the region by a tough new work test, the first analysis of results suggests.

About 40 per cent of incapacity benefit (IB) claimants are being found fit for work and placed on jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) instead – losing at least £28 a week in benefit.

But a further 28 per cent are being placed in a “work-related activity group”, after being assessed as able to look for a job in the future, with extra support.

That means they will be moved onto JSA after one further year, if they have a household income because their partner works, or sufficient savings.

In County Durham, nearly half of those tested were told to look for a job immediately – while, in Redcar and Cleveland, fewer than a quarter were found to be unable to work.

The results come from the first work capability tests on about 8,000 IB claimants in the North-East and North Yorkshire, which began a year ago.

It’s much better to help people on the journey back to work than to leave them on benefits for the rest of their lives.”

Work Minister Chris Grayling

But the Government’s intention is to re-test more than 90,000 claimants across the region over the next two years, about three quarters of the total number – leaving out only those close to retirement age.

If the same proportion of about 60 per cent are found fit for work, either immediately or with help, that could take sickness benefits from 50,000 people or more.

Work Minister Chris Grayling said the results showed the current system to be “a waste of human life”, adding: “Too many people have been left languishing on benefits for too long.

“We are providing support to those who need it, but it is right that those who are able to work should do so. It’s much better to help people on the journey back to work than to leave them on benefits for the rest of their lives.”

But the release of the statistics immediately triggered controversy, because Mr Grayling failed to reveal how many claimants are winning appeals in each area.

Across the country, 400,000 people have appealed since 2009 and about 40 per cent were successful – prompting criticism that the tests are flawed and are wrongly finding sick people fit for work.

People with “fluctuating” conditions, such as epilepsy and Asperger’s syndrome, regularly fail the test, only to later win appeals. Tribunals are clogged up.

This month, the chief executive of the mental health charity Mind resigned from the Government’s advisory panel on the work tests after condemning them as inhumane.

THE NORTHERN ECHO

Comments
  • JJ April 22, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Jonn says…(poster on The Northern Echo)

    8:41am Sun 22 Apr 12

    “This is not about weeding out the ‘scroungers’ and those ‘fiddling’ the benefits system. It is pure ideology and to put as many people as possible onto a lower rate of benefits, such as JSA, to reduce the benefits bill.

    I attended a work capability assessment, carried out by Atos, 18 months ago. I failed. I requested a copy of the medical and discovered I had failed due to the test being fixed. The questions asked were not relevent to my illness and my ability to work. When you reply to a question, they do not write down your answer, they pick an answer from preset mulitple choices on their computer screen that is closest to your answer.

    They also do not consider any of your medical history, despite any amount of evidence you produce from medically qualified experts.
    The ‘nurse’ who carried out my test also lied time and time again, declaring many anwers I was never asked and declaring many physical tasks I was never asked to perform.

    Atos has been awarded a huge contract to carryout these medicals, the people employed to carryout these medicals do not have to be qualified in the field and also are awarded bonuses for failing people.

    Now tell me that these medicals are not fixed?

    I decided to appeal, they then reduced my benefits from £91 to £61 a week until a tribunal date was set, this took 10 MONTHS (due to a huge backlog apparently). Although I suspect that such a long wait will help to deter many from seeing the process through!

    During this time, my mental condition deteriorated further due to trying to cope with putting together an appeal and struggling financially and so ended up needing intense psychiactric help.

    As they will not tell you what a tribunal consists of and how to prepare yourself, they suggest you get help from CAB to help with a tribunal as it’s quite a daunting process. Darlington CAB had no one to help as the person who dealt with such cases had left and they were understaffed due to cuts! A family member had to help me in the end.

    I attended the eventual tribunal, where you are confronted by a Doctor and a Judge who question you very intensely for a good 45 minutes, which was the most excruciating and demeaning experience of my life.

    I won my appeal but the whole process was hugely unfair and designed to pretty much crush you into submission.

    There has to be another way, thousands are being put through this process every week, some dieing, some committing suicide, just to throw a few people onto the dole queue and save a few quid.
    Disgusting.”

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