Three quarters of incapacity claimants ruled capable of some form of work after Atos tests


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The Independent Online

More than a third of people going through the controversial incapacity benefit reassessment have been found to be fit for work, new figures published today show.

Of the 139,200 people reassessed between December 2011 and February 2012, 36 per cent were found fit for work, transferred onto the less generous jobseekers allowance and must now look for a job.

Just under two thirds of people who were claiming the old incapacity benefit were found to be eligible for the new Employment and Support Allowance.

However, a further 39 per cent were judged to be capable of work in the future. They were put in the Work Related Activity Group, meaning they are currently too ill or disabled to work and entitled to the benefit, but will be expected to take steps towards an eventual return to work.

Only one in four of those reassessed were allocated to the support group where they get unconditional support as they are too ill or disabled to work.

Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, said: “The old incapacity benefit system condemned too many people to a life on benefits without any hope of ever going back to work. This was simply wrong. By reassessing everyone for ESA we can help thousands of people move from benefits and back into work if they are capable while giving unconditional support to those who need it.”

It is estimated that a total of 1.5 million people will undergo reassessment by 2014. The process is now over halfway through and is on schedule.

Charities have voiced concern that the test for people on incapacity benefit, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), is unfair. The test is carried out by the French healthcare firm Atos to determine whether claimants are “fit to work”.

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope said: “The latest figures released showing the number of people found ‘fit for work’ need to be taken with a large pinch of salt.

“There remains an alarming  dossier of evidence that the Work Capability Assessment is a deeply flawed test.

“Factoring in successful appeals would significantly lower the number of people found ‘fit for work’.

“Many disabled people want to work but they face a host of barriers when it comes to finding a job. 

“The Government’s fitness-for-work test should be the starting point for giving disabled people the support they need.  But the flawed test means thousands are still not receiving the support they need to genuinely find a job in this challenging economic climate.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind said: “We believe the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is deeply flawed and unsuitable in determining whether people with mental health problems are ready for work. Many people who have been reassessed may have been wrongly declared ‘Fit for Work’. These people will now be expected to look for work under the threat of sanctions, which may be totally inappropriate.”