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7 December 2010

The reassessment of 1.5 million incapacity benefit (IB) claimants for eligibility for employment and support allowance is facing delays before it even begins, due to the lack of software to process claims.

Jobcentre Plus will begin sending out ESA50 forms to claimants from 28 February 2011.  However, even after forms have been returned and medicals carried out, no decisions will be made about eligibility for ESA until the end of May, at the earliest.  This is because the software needed by Jobcentre Plus to deal with transferring claimants from IB to ESA or JSA – or off benefits altogether – is still not finished.

Although the intention is that 10,000 claims a week will be processed, the number dealt with in the first ten weeks will be much lower.  For the first five weeks only one third of this number will be dealt with each week, rising to two thirds for the next five weeks.  This still means that there will be a backlog of around 70,000 cases to work through if the software is actually up and running on time.

Jobcentre Plus will stockpile all cases until the software is up and running, but admit that they do not yet know how they are going to clear the backlog of cases.

Whilst cases are waiting for the software, claimants will remain on their current award of incapacity benefit.  However, it means many thousands of claimants face anxious months of waiting after their medical before they are told the decision.  If the DWP do not prioritise the backlog, but concentrate on more recent cases, the wait could be even longer.