Helpless losers in blitz on benefits
Hundreds of thousands of people will face being stripped of their disability benefit in the West Country, it emerged yesterday.
Tough new tests designed to single out those wrongly claiming benefits will lead to many losing financial entitlements even if they deserve to claim them.
New figures estimate this will mean more than 41,000 losing disability benefit in the Greater Bristol area alone, with tens of thousands more in the wider West Country.
The controversial automated assessment is designed to weed out bogus claimants – but critics say it is a “deeply depressing” way to treat disabled people.
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Yesterday, ministers published figures showing the results of tests across Bristol between October 2010 and February 2012.
While the percentages differ slightly between areas, the initial results of the tests suggest at least 12,300 of the 41,000 ‘losers’ in the Greater Bristol area will be told to find work once the testing process has been completed.
The Department for Work and Pensions also found that almost half of claimants were judged to be capable of working with support, while 20-25 per cent should continue to get the payment with no conditions.
Labour MP Dawn Primarolo, who represents Bristol South, said: “We are being contacted by people fearing they will be called in for a test, saying just the fear of it is damaging their health.
“Quite frankly, I am not sure how anyone could decide some of these people are capable of full-time work.
“I will be scrutinising these figures very carefully, but it won’t help my constituents.”The Work Capability Assessments, carried out by French company Atos, were introduced by Labour in 2008 as an attempt to check whether people applying for disability benefits were in fact capable of work.
The coalition Government then expanded them to existing claimants, saying too many people had been “condemned to a life on benefits”.
But the tests have been controversial, with disability charities calling for them to be suspended. They have yielded some surprising results and critics said they failed to identify mental health conditions. There has also been a high success rate in appeals against the test results, with around 40 per cent of rulings being overturned.
Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: “The old system condemned too many people to a life on benefits without any hope of ever going back to work. 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.”