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11 October 2010

The DWP today began piloting the process of reassessing incapacity benefit claimants, having predicted that they will force around a quarter onto jobseeker’s allowance and the rest onto employment and support allowance.  Initial pilots of 1,700 claimants are taking place using the Aberdeen and Burnley benefits delivery centres, but – as Benefits and Work revealed in July –   the pilots will reveal very little about whether the process will work when full-scale testing begins.

Initially the DWP had estimated that around 20% of current incapacity benefit claimants would be pushed on to JSA, but in evidence to a commons select committee  David Cameron gave the much more precise figure of 23%.  However, as the main migration will involve a much harsher work capability assessment which has yet to be passed into law and which is totally untried, any such definite figure is of doubtful reliability.

The pilot assessments in Burnley and Aberdeen will not only be using the ‘wrong’ work capability assessment – because it will use the current one rather than the harsher new one – but they will also not use any of the computer software that is supposed to be in place for the full migration. 

In addition,  they will test many fewer claimants each week, meaning that there will be no opportunity to gauge whether Atos and the DWP can actually cope with the 10,000 WCAs they will be expected to carry out every week starting next spring.

Benefits and Work will keep members informed of any results of these pilots.