Incapacity benefit claimants to face ‘flawed’ work assessment

Existing incapacity benefit claimants look set to be assessed on their fitness to work using a test widely criticised as flawed, it has emerged.

Existing incapacity benefit claimants look set to be assessed on their fitness to work using a test widely criticised as flawed, it has emerged.

Though the work capability assessment (WCA) will be subject to review annually, the timescale for the first of these has not yet been set, making it likely that existing IB claimants will be subject to the current version of WCA when reassessments begin in October.

Earlier this year a DWP report found that many Jobcentre Plus staff felt disabled people were incorrectly being certified fit to work under the current version of WCA.

And yesterday a report by Citizens Advice Scotland found 70% of appeals against assessment decisions were successful.

Those deemed fit to work will be placed on to jobseeker’s allowance. This means they receive £25 less a week and are given less support in finding work than those put on to employment and support allowance, which replaced incapacity benefit for new claimants in October 2008. The government also intends to introduce tougher sanctions for jobseeker’s allowance claimants who refuse work.

Neil Coyle, director of policy at the Disability Alliance, said: “Without a review [of WCA] soon it’s clear the only option is to use the existing work capability assessment with all its flaws and this will strike fear into the hearts of disabled people.”

Mind’s chief executive, Paul Farmer, said the assessment was “not up to the job of measuring whether people with mental health problems are fit for work”.

He joined Coyle in calling for an immediate review of the assessment before it is rolled out to existing incapacity benefit claimants, “so that people are not forced to look for work they can’t do”.

In a speech today outlining the government’s plans for welfare reform, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “We will re-assess all current claimants of incapacity benefit on their readiness to work. If people genuinely cannot work, then we will make sure they get the unconditional support they need. However, those assessed as immediately capable of work will be moved on to jobseeker’s allowance straight away.”

Before the election the Conservatives announced plans to save £600m from moving people off incapacity benefit onto jobseeker’s allowance, with the money invested in improving employment support.

A bill on welfare reform, announced earlier this week in the Queen’s speech, is expected to be introduced into Parliament soon.

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