Citizens Advice Scotland have said the government’s sickness benefit figures are misleading and are not a true representation of the thousands of people who are incorrectly found fit for work.
CAS Chief Executive Lucy McTernan said:
‘The ESA ‘fit for work’ decisions are based on the ‘Work Capability Assessments’ that disabled people are put through as part of the ESA process. But these assessments have now been criticised as inadequate and insensitive, not just by the Citizens Advice service but by medical experts, leading academics and even by the senior government advisers who devised the system in the first place.
‘The system’s inadequacy is shown by the astonishingly high rate of success for those who appeal against their ‘fit for work’ decision. In Scotland, where CAB advisers have helped people with their appeal, 70% have succeeded in overturning the original ‘fit for work’ judgement. The government itself has admitted that 40% of all appeals across the UK are successful. The government has no knowledge of the reasons why 36% dropped out of the application process. These figures show that there is something badly wrong with the ESA and decision-making process. The government’s figure of those assessed as unfit for work is unrealistic.
‘The government’s aim here is to get people off benefit and into suitable work where they can. We are fully behind that principle. People who can work should be helped to find suitable work - that is an admirable objective and we support it completely. But it is very clear that the ESA is unfit for purpose. To many people who are genuinely too sick to work, including people with cancer, alzheimers disease and serious mental illnesses are found fit for work’
CAS spokespeople are available for interview – please contact Matt Lancashire on 0131 550 1062 or 07788 546862 to arrange.
NB This is the number of the CAS Press Office, for use by journalists only. If you are a member of the public looking for CAB advice please contact your local bureau.
Notes to editors - click to expand/collapse
ESA – The Story So Far
ESA was introduced in autumn 2008, for all NEW claims from people who were too sick to work. The plan was to let the system bed in, and then extend it to all EXISTING Incapacity Benefit claimants as well. The coalition government continued this policy, un-altered, when they came to power.
Right from the beginning, the flaws within ESA process became apparent, with people suffering from illnesses like cancer and alzheimers disease being told they were ‘fit for work’ after the briefest of interviews which ignored their medical history. People hit by the system have increasingy been coming to their CAB for help, and so CAS has been recording and reporting the problems with the system since it began (See our detailed report, Unfit for Purpose).
In 2009 the government responded to growing concerns by setting up a review to look into the problems of ESA. The review, chaired by Professor Paul Harrington, reported last year, and supported many of the criticisms that we have made. It recommended a number of improvements in the system. Many of these were accepted by the government but they have not yet been implemented.
Significantly, even the government adviser who helped set up ESA, Professor Paul Gregg, has now become publicly critical of the system. He says the government is pushing ahead too quickly. Professor Gregg attended a conference of Scottish CAB advisers in March.