Asked about the 30% success rate in appeals, he (Grayling) added: “I think you have to look at why the appeals are successful. I wish the judges sometime looked beyond the first impression and thought – is it really the case that these people could not return to any form of work?”
A man diagnosed with heart failure died 39 days after being found ‘fit for work’ for a second time by Government assessors, it emerged tonight.
In a damning report by the BBC’s Panorama, the Government was forced to defend the work capability assessments it is using to reassess disability claimants’ entitlement to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and stress that it, and the French healthcare firm running the assessments, Atos, is not setting targets for moving people back into work.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’ own estimate is that fewer than 0.5% of incapacity claims are fraudulent.
Following reassessments – which include a point-based system determining your fitness for work – claimants will be deemed either fit for work and moved onto Job Seekers Allowance; will receive support while claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or will be assessed as unfit for work.
However, Panorama uncovered a number of claimants – including an emphysema sufferer given two days to live by his doctor – passed fit for work but who later successfully appealed the decision.
The case of Steven Hill, however, proved to be much more shocking. He was passed ‘fit for work’ despite being diagnosed with heart failure. After winning an appeal he was again passed fit for work – this time while awaiting the operation. Just 39 days after, he died of a heart attack.
Ministry of Justice figures highlighted by Panorama show that more than 176,000 cases go to appeal tribunals every year costing the taxpayer a further £50m. DWP figures show around 30% of those cases are being overturned, leading to calls the system is “flawed.”
Two years ago the Government appointed professor Malcolm Harrington to independently review the system.
After making recommendations he said the testing system is “better than it was, but only if done properly”.
He had previously warned it wouldn’t work if the decisions about claimants’ fitness were based solely upon a questionnaire – a computer programme – and that human involvement was needed to look at all the information available.
Two years on he said: “If it is done properly along the recommendations I’ve made it will be fit for purpose. Right across the country it is patchy, I have to say that. There will be people, who, because we’re in this interim period, will suffer and I don’t like that.”
The Government strenuously denies it or Atos was working to targets for reassessments.
Employment minister Chris Grayling said: “We do not have a financial target for the reassessment of people on incapacity benefit or for the level of new applications for ESA which are successful. Absolutely, categorically, unequivocally there is no financial target.”
Asked about the 30% success rate in appeals, he added: “I think you have to look at why the appeals are successful. I wish the judges sometime looked beyond the first impression and thought – is it really the case that these people could not return to any form of work?”