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75% of Sick Benefit Claimants Fit to Work

75% of people who applied for new benefits for the long-term sick failed tests to prove they were too ill to work.

Out of about 840,000 who tried to obtain the £95-a-week Employment and Support Allowance, 640,000 were told they were fit for work, or withdrew their applications before they took the tests – suggesting they were”trying it on”.

Unbelievably, 7,100 tried to claim because they had sexually transmitted diseases and nearly 10,000 because they were too fat. Only 178,000, roughly 25% – were given the payment after convincing doctors they were actually unable to work.

The disclosure by the Department for Work and Pensions raises fresh questions over how many of the 2.6million people on the existing incapacity benefit are really incapable of being employed. The figures suggest that if they were tested to the same extent the number would fall as low as 650,000.

This would slash the £12.5bn bill for incapacity benefit to just over £4bn a year.

The Government is pushing ahead with trials in Burnley and Aberdeen to re-test existing incapacity benefit claimants. If successful, the tests will be implemented nationwide.

The Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was brought in two years ago for new applicants. It will eventually replace incapacity benefit, which is worth up to £91.40 a week.

All new claimants now have to undergo work capability assessments through a private contractor, Atos.

The first three months are paid at a lower weekly rate of £65, while their claim in the form of a questionnaire about their condition is considered along with information from their doctor.

They may then be asked to go for a full medical assessment. More than a third of claimants voluntarily give up the benefit within three months, however, rather than undergoing the medical tests reinforcing the thought that many are “trying it on”.

Even so, those who have failed or avoided the test since it was introduced have managed to claim as much as £500million in total before being screened out. Can you imagine this happening in the private sector?

Those who go in front of Atos-hired doctors are tested on how far they can walk, how long they can sit and whether they can bend and touch their knees. They also have to show whether they can hold a pen or pencil and do up a button.

Those who can do basic physical tasks are tested for their communication skills and whether they can cope with change.
People who are found to be sick are then put into three groups: those who need permanent support, those who might be able to work after a few months and those who are fit to work.

Since October 2008, just 51,000 people have been put on the new sickness benefit indefinitely, meaning there is genuinely no hope of them being able to work again.

Surely there is a case of hiring more Atos specialists or bringing in resources from elsewhere in the system to reduce the cash leakage rate and to bring the 3 month window down?

Simple economics.


Author: Chris Slay

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