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15 February 2011

Figures released by the DWP which show that almost one third of incapacity benefit claimants have failed to be awarded employment and support allowance (ESA) are partial and cannot be relied upon.

According to a press release issued by the DWP on 10 February about the Burnley and Aberdeen pilot, in which incapacity benefit claimants were reassessed using the work capability assessment for ESA:

“The provisional figures show that we have made 1347 decisions of which:

 “399 have been found fit for work (29.6%)

“422 are in the support group for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – this means they will receive unconditional support (31.3%)

“526 are in the Work Related Activity of ESA – this means with the right help and support they can start the journey back to work (39%)”

What the press release failed to disclose is that:

  • 1,700 claimants were assessed in the course of the pilot, so decisions have still not been made in over 350 cases.  It is not clear why decisions are still awaited for these claimants – it may be just slow decision making or these may be more complex cases.
  • 123 claimants have already appealed the decision.  On current appeal success rates, around 50 of these appeals will be upheld – but the number may be higher as these are all claimants who have until now been accepted as incapacitated.
  • The work capability assessment will change from March 28th to one that makes it much harder to get into the work-related activity group and possibly slightly easier to get into the support group, at least for claimants with mental health conditions and learning difficulties.


These partial and inconclusive figures provoked another crop of claimant hating headlines, as the DWP no doubt intended.  But they actually tell us next to nothing about what will happen to the majority of current incapacity benefit claimants.
 

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