WORK and Pensions Secretary Damian Green is today set to announce a consultation on reforming the hated Work Capability Assessment Tests of claimants of disability benefits, while Labour called on them to be scrapped.
Claimants are to be assessed in a more ‘targeted and personalised’ way to ‘help’ more people find jobs. The consultation follows the announcement that people with severe conditions will no longer face reassessments for their benefits.
It will examine how people receiving Employment Support Allowance (ESA) can be ‘helped back into employment’ without having their benefits put at risk while they search for a job.
Green said: ‘No one wants a system where people are written off and forced to spend long periods of time on benefits when, actually, with the right support they could be getting back into work.’
Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams called for the assessments to be scrapped, saying they caused ‘needless misery and stress’ for thousands of sick and disabled people.
She said the government’s approach was ‘ideologically driven with the sole purpose of targeting the most vulnerable in our society to pay for their austerity plans, painting disabled people as scroungers and shirkers, whilst making no impact on the disability employment gap’.
More than two million people receive ESA. The DWP places claimants assessed eligible for ESA in either the ‘work-related activity group’ or ‘support group’.
The work-related activity group means officials have decided a claimants’ disability or health condition currently means their ability to have a job is limited, but are capable of making some effort to find employment.
They receive up to £102.15 a week in ESA payments while attending employment-focused interviews and training. From April 2017, payments will fall to £73.10 for new claimants.
Those in the ‘support group’, who have been deemed unable to work and are not required to do anything to improve their chances of finding a job, receive up to £109.30 a week.
Scope chief executive Mark Atkinson said: ‘The current fit-for-work test doesn’t accurately identify the barriers disabled people face in entering or staying in work. An assessment should be the first step to getting support and should be separate from determining benefits entitlement.’
MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: ‘We are keen to help create a system that makes more sense. However, it must be recognised that many people with long-term progressive conditions will simply be too unwell to work and no amount of extra employment support will change that.’