Three quarters of sickness benefit claimants who are judged “fit for work” are still unemployed up to 18 months later.
By Tim Ross, Political Correspondent 9:48AM GMT 21 Nov 2012
Only 9 per cent of those who were deemed to be capable of working in the future, with support, had obtained jobs 12 to 18 months after claiming the allowance.
The figures emerged as an independent review raised “considerable concern” over the Government’s scheme of back to – work testing for sickness benefit claimants.
Ministers are paying Atos, a private contractor, £112 million a year to conduct “work capability assessments” on people claiming Employment and Support Allowance. Those judged able to work are taken off the benefit and given support to find jobs.
Charities and independent watchdogs have criticised the way the company has worked on the programme.
An investigation by Professor Malcolm Harrington, conducted for the Government, warned that progress on improving the work capability assessments remained “slower than hoped” three years after he first raised concerns.
His report said improvements were being made but the Department for Work and Pensions must “monitor Atos more closely”. He said the company had not done enough “to raise its game” in the past year.
Mark Hoban, the minister for employment, said the Government would accept the recommendations and acknowledged that “more needs to be done”.
“It is in everyone’s interest to make sure the system is as fair and as accurate as possible,” he said.