Seriously ill and disabled people are being pushed into finding work without any help or support, a charity has warned.
Citizens Advice said it had “grave concerns” about how sick and disabled people are being assessed for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
The allowance was introduced in October 2008 to replace incapacity benefit for new claimants, and to give more support to people who may be able to return to work.
But the charity said that since the allowance was introduced, its advisers across England and Wales had been reporting high numbers of seriously ill and disabled people who were being found “fit to work” under the new work capability assessment.
People who were found to be fit to work included those with advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, as well as people with severe mental illness, and some who were dealing with acute short-term health problems, such as waiting for open heart surgery. Overall, 69% of people who were assessed for the allowance were refused it.
In its report, which is supported by 18 other organisations, including Macmillan Cancer Support and the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the group warned that the medical test people undergo to assess their fitness to work does not account for the complexities of many illnesses and disabilities.
It said it was also hearing numerous reports of hurried medicals, where vital details were missed and unjustifiable assumptions were made. It added that the assessments did not place enough emphasis on the impact of mental health issues on people’s ability to work.
The charity said that failing the assessment could have an enormously detrimental effect on people. It said people who failed were told they must find work, and they could also be put on jobseeker’s allowance, which it said was a less supportive benefit, while in some cases they may receive no benefits at all.
Citizens Advice also warned that the stress of the test and the prospect of having to fight unfavourable decisions at a tribunal put considerable pressure on people, and risked making it harder for them to return to work.
David Harker, chief executive at Citizens Advice, said: “The current test to determine eligibility for ESA isn’t working. We are seeing cases where the Government’s aim of moving people into work is being totally undermined. Seriously ill and disabled people are being severely let down by the crude approach of the work capability assessment.”
Taken from Yahoo! News UK