Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) have said the government are wrong to interpret new figures on the Employment Support Allowance as a success.
Reacting to today’s figures CAS Chief Executive Lucy McTernan said,
“The figures released today indicate that many sick and disabled benefit claimants are being found fit for work. The government says this is a vindication of their welfare reforms. But that assumes that the decisions being made are all accurate. We have overwhelming evidence that shows that too often the opposite is the case.
“Saying someone is fit for work does not make them so. And the truth is that many of those who are being classed as fit for work are anything but. This is the flaw in the system, and it is causing real misery for thousands of disabled and sick people across Scotland.
“We have seen case after case of people being approved as fit for work, despite having serious illnesses including cancer, parkinsons disease and serious mental health problems. As proof of the extent of this problem, some 40% of people who appeal against the decision are successful and have the decision over-turned. Where CAB staff have helped in the appeal, the success rate is 70%. These are astonishing figures and they show that there is something seriously wrong with the original decision-making process.
“We strongly support the principle that people should work where they can. But those who genuinely can’t work must be supported, and the assessment process must be fair, thorough and absolutely watertight. The government have listened to some of our concerns recently and have accepted some changes, and we welcome that. But there are still huge problems, and too many of the most vulnerable people in our community are having their lives blighted even more by this harsh and cruel system.
“So instead of celebrating these figures, the government should be looking behind them to find out how accurate the judgements are, and then making sure the system is improved before it is extended to anyone else.”
• There were 189,300 ESA appeals made in 12 months in the UK – over 500 for every day of the year.
• Around 40% of ESA appeals are found in favour of the claimant. This would suggest that there around 75,000 incorrect assessments last year. Where a Scottish CAB represents a client, the success rate at appeal is 70%.
• Research for the DWP found that only 13% of those found fit for work have found work. The majority of those found fit for work either live on reduced benefits or rely on the income of a partner instead. 61% of those found fit for work are neither in employment or receiving Jobseekers Allowance.
• 207,000 people in Scotland currently claim Incapacity Benefit. The majority will be re-assessed in the next three years. There are over 1,000 assessments each week in Scotland. If the system is not improved the numbers of people who experience these problems will increase hugely.
For more information, or to arrange interviews etc. please contact Tony Hutson on 07774 751655 or Matt Lancashire on 0131 550 1062.