By Oliver Clay, Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News
CANCER sufferers and residents with severe mental health problems have sought help to overturn benefits assessments that classed them as fit for work.
According to Parliamentary data fewer than a third of appeals were successful. Of 310 appeals, 90 succeeded and 220 were upheld.
The assessments determine whether someone is eligible for employment and support allowance (ESA). The scheme divides claimants into those it views as unable to work and those who need support in order to work.
Labour MP Derek Twigg said the number of complaints from constituents who have been told they are fit to work is rising and include the case of one resident whose dozen or more medical conditions render him able ‘to hardly get out of bed’.
Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) chief executive Hitesh Patel said the CAB speaks to clients every day whose ESA has been stopped and they have been told they are fit to work.
The Department For Work And Pensions (DWP) said the old system for work capability assessments ‘wrote too many people off’ but that two independent reviews have been launched to make the tests fairer.
A DWP spokesman, which contracts the assessment work out to private firm Atos Healthcare, said it sets no targets for the assessors.
Mr Patel said: “We have around 80 active appeal cases but we only have the equivalent of one full-time welfare rights specialist legal adviser so demand far out-strips supply.
“Here in Halton we are winning over 50% of all appeal cases we take on and that high figure seems to suggest that the Government’s appointed medical assessors are not doing the job properly when it comes to finding out if someone can really work.
“We have won appeals for people being treated for cancer after the assessors had deemed them fit to work and we have also won appeals for people who are in such pain they have to take morphine to cope.
“But the most common issue seems to revolve around people with severe mental health problems not having the impact of their condition properly considered.”