Disability rights

Vicious Tory bullies hit…

Simon Carter

Government ministers, aided and abetted by the right wing media, have labelled the majority of disability benefit claimants as scroungers after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said 39% were fully fit for work.

However, these figures were rubbished by a parliamentary committee report which concluded: “It is widely accepted that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), as introduced in 2008 [by Labour – Eds], was flawed. This has been borne out by the high number of appeals and the high success rate of appellants. It was also reflected in the amount of evidence from individuals who expressed grievances with the way they were treated during the process and the accuracy of the outcome.”

Atos Healthcare, a for-profit company, receives £100 million a year from the government to carry out the medical tests to determine whether claimants are fit for work. One claimant, Larry Newman, who attended an Atos interview with a terminal lung disease, was deemed ‘fit for work’ and his benefit was cut. Larry died a few weeks later.

In the past three years 160,000 people have successfully appealed against decisions to cut their benefits. MPs estimate the cost to the taxpayer of these appeals at around £50 million a year. Employment minister, Chris Grayling, accepts the WCA tests are flawed but the government continues to use Atos.

The PCS civil servants union general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “This exercise is just about saving money by bullying people who are sick or disabled onto lower levels of benefit.

“It is not about finding people work – because there is no work available. The government is failing to create jobs, while cutting thousands of posts in the public sector.”

…disabled benefits

Rob Windsor

Banner press headlines recently told us that only 7% of those claiming incapacity benefits are unfit to work.

This is wholly untrue. It is the product of past and present governments creating an agenda to push sick people off benefits.

The real reason is financial. In most cases a person will not go from benefits into work.

They will simply end up claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance at the same £67.50 a week as the Assessment stage Employment Support Allowance (ESA) figure.

Only those lucky enough to get past Atos, often via a tribunal, will qualify for the additional £30 or so either in higher ESA or Income Support premiums. That’s hardly the life of Riley.

Very few people want to live on sick benefits. A stoical army of people with long-term painful and debilitating conditions still work, often encountering prejudice by employers.

Unfortunately we hear too little of such people and of those who simply cannot work any more and deserve financial stability.

“People are suspicious that the government’s only objective is to save money.”

Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee recently produced a report showing that vulnerable benefit claimants, including incapacity benefit claimants, had payments stopped because of errors in work assessments.

Overbooking of interview slots led to some people being marked as ‘failing to attend’, leading to payments being suspended.

Even Dame Anne Begg, who chairs the committee, commented: “People are suspicious that the government’s only objective is to save money.”