Disabled benefits test is ‘too crude’

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DISABLED people are being left suffering extreme hardship by new tests assessing their right to benefits.

The Government has started to re-assess people currently claiming Incapacity Benefit to decide if they qualify for the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

But figures just released show that, nationally, only seven per cent of those claiming sickness benefits were deemed unable to do any sort of work following the new, tougher assessments.

Almost 40 per cent of those assessed were deemed fit to work and moved onto Jobseeker’s Allowance.

But those involved with working with disabled people in South Holland say the new regime is causing serious difficulties for those affected.

South Holland Citizen’s Advice Bureau manager Diane Clay said the new testing system is “too crude” to accurately assess disabled people’s fitness to work.

She said: “We find that lots of disabled people want to get back to work but many are just not able and we are not very happy about the way the system is working.

“We feel there are problems with the way the test is actually carried out in practice. Assessments can last just 20 minutes and they do not waiver from the yes/no format, which is too narrow to accurately assess most people.

“The result is that many people have to go through the appeal process and, so far, all the clients we have helped have been successful with their appeals.”

But a spokesman for South Holland Enterprise for the Disabled, which works to provide sporting and leisure opportunities for those in the district, said the tribunal process has also become a lot tougher, leaving people struggling without the help of disability benefits.

He said: “It has become a lot more difficult for disabled people who have been denied disability benefits to convince tribunals of their need for the benefits.

“The regime has become a lot more hard-nosed and more hostile to disabled people and as a result these decisions are having a very serious effect on people’s living standards.

“I certainly do not believe that only seven per cent of those claiming Incapacity Benefit are unable to work.”

He recounted the case of one disabled woman who was almost housebound as a result of injuries from an industrial accident who was forced to reapply for the disability benefit she claimed, only to be denied and denied again on appeal.

He said: “Her standard of living is now very, very poor because she was assessed as able to work and put on Jobseeker’s Allowance.

“She now lives on about £64 a week, with a mortgage to pay as well as all the other household bills.”