The number of people in receipt of employment and support allowance (ESA) and incapacity benefit (IB) has risen for the fourth quarter in a row, according to DWP statistics released today. At current rates of increase there will be more claimants in receipt of ESA and IB by the next election than there were when IDS took over. It also means that the enormous suffering caused by the massive IB to ESA transfer programme has so far reduced the clamant count by just 2.5%, a drop of only 70,000 out of over 2.5 million.
The latest ESA estimates by the DWP reveal that the number of people in receipt of ESA and IB rose to 2,515,000 in August 2014, the highest number of awards since August 2012.
In just the last three months, awards have increased by 35,000.
At current rates of increase this means that by May 2015 the number of claimants receiving ESA and IB will stand at 2.62 million, which is higher than the 2.61 million claimants when IDS took over the DWP in May 2010. The current trend reverses a long-term fall in the number of sickness benefits claimants.
It also means that in spite of the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on moving claimants off IB and onto ESA, the claimant count has dropped by just 2.5% since migration began.
A pilot involving 1,700 claimants being moved off IB and onto ESA began in October 2010, but migration proper did not begin until February 2011, when the claimant count was 2.58 million. It is now 2.51 million.
A massive amount of distress, hardship and worsening of health conditions has been caused by the IB to ESA transfer, which is far behind schedule and still not quite completed. It now looks as though all that suffering will have had absolutely no effect on the number of IB and ESA claimants, but will have enriched private sector companies by many tens of millions of pounds. If his success in cutting the benefits bill and helping the sick and disabled back into work is what IDS wishes to be judged by, then it seems likely that he will be judged very harshly indeed.