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14 June 2010

Speculation about how soon the new government would begin transferring claimants from incapacity benefit to employment and support allowance (ESA) – or jobseekers allowance (JSA) – has now been brought to an end following a ministerial statement.

On 8th June the LibDem Baroness Thomas of Winchester asked when the coalition  “plan to start re-testing incapacity benefit claimants with the work capability assessment before moving them to replacement benefits.”

For the coalition, Lord Freud, (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Welfare Reform) confirmed that the new government will stick to Labour’s  original timetable for beginning the testing of incapacity benefit claimants.  He told the Baroness in a written reply that:

“The current plans are to begin the reassessment of cases receiving the old style incapacity benefits in October 2010 with a small trial to test and learn from the process, with the national reassessment programme planned to run from spring 2011 to March 2014.”

It appears then, that there are no current plans to move from the original timetable set out under labour. This is in spite of claims by Cameron prior to the election that his government would speed up the reassessing of incapacity benefit claimants. 

Freud’s statement may, however, be a reflection of the reality that Atos/DWP are failing to keep up with the assessment of new ESA claims, let alone the additional burden of retesting many thousands of incapacity benefit claimants every week.

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