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ESA 'failing to get people into work'

28 Apr 2011

Citizens Advice Scotland have said the government is wrong to claim that its welfare reform process is successfully getting people off benefits and into work.

CAS Chief Executive Lucy McTernan said today,

“The government is making claims today about the supposed success of its Employment & Support Allowance (ESA). They say it is successfully getting sick and disabled people off benefits and into work. Unfortunately the real picture is seen by CAB advisers every day – and is very different.

“Many of the people who are found ‘fit for work’ by their ESA assessments are nothing of the kind. Ever since ESA was first introduced the CAB service has dealt with thousands of people whose assessment decisions bear no relation at all to the reality of their condition or illness. CAB advisers regularly see people with cancer, alzheimers disease and serious mental illnesses being told that they are ‘fit for work’ - to the amazement of the doctors who have treated them for years.

“And this is not just a small number. Thousands of claimants are having their original ‘fit for work’ decision overturned on appeal. For example, in the third quarter of last year, 11,500 assessments across the UK were overturned at appeal – that’s about 171 every working day. This suggests that the original decision-making process is inherently flawed and simply not fit for purpose. [1] Yet the government continues to press ahead.

“It is also worth noting that only 13% of ‘fit to work’ claimants are actually returning to work. [2] Under the ESA system the government is required to provide tailored support to those who are judged fit for work. But at a time of high unemployment it is clear that the government isn’t doing enough to help these people actually get a job.

“So, ESA is a deeply flawed system and is causing undue misery and poverty for thousands of the most vulnerable people in the country. Even the government advisers who originally dreamt up the system now say it needs to be changed, and the government itself has accepted the recommendations for change made in an independent report last year (see notes below).

“The government should suspend the roll-out of ESA and fix these problems, so that those people who are most in need get the support they deserve.”

For interviews etc. please contact Tony Hutson on 0131 550 1010.

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