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Government sickness benefit figures misleading

26 Jul 2011

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.