Backlash against benefits ‘shame’

NILABE120424c2, Ilkeston job centre, south Street, Ilkeston.
NILABE120424c2, Ilkeston job centre, south Street, Ilkeston.

ILKESTON folk have hit out at the Government this week after our story in last week’s ‘Tiser about more than half of Erewash residents on the sick being deemed fit to work by new benfits tests.

As part of its plan to reform the welfare system, the Government has begun reassessing all 1.5m residents in England and Wales, who receive disability benefits.

Last week we revealed that 110 of the first 210 incapacity benefits claimants tested in Erewash were deemed fit enough to go back to work after taking part in the computerised tests by French firm ATOS, on behalf of the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions.

The figure – just over 52 per cent – was the highest in Derbyshire and the third highest in the country.

Paul Farnsworth, social policy co-ordinator for Erewash Citizens Advice Bureau, based in the former Albion Leisure Centre, blasted the tests as shameful this week.

“Clients tell us that the assessment lasts on average 20 minutes, which is hardly long enough to observe how a client would cope with an eight hour working day,” he explained.

“The assessment relies largely on simple yes or no answers, which fail to properly explore individual health issues, and some issues, such as mental health, are hardly touched on at all.

“There are also problems with how the assessments are conducted, with many clients reporting that their responses have been ignored or misrepresented.”

The Government is planning to replace incapacity benefits with Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Those found fit to work by ATOS’s tests will be moved on to Job Seekers’ Allowance while they look for work.

Mr Farnsworth added: “We see so many clients who genuinely have a limited capability for work being turned down for ESA – people whose claims are supported by GPs, health specialists and care workers.

“Our evidence points to the main root of this shameful programme of neglect as being the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) as carried out by ATOS Healthcare.

“The WCA is supposed to assess claimants’ fitness for work and determine what help and support they may need. It has failed in nearly all of the cases we see.”

Angry residents have made their views known all week on Twitter, Facebook and out website, claiming the tests are ‘flawed’ and are forcing genuinely sick and disabled people off benefits, who are incapable of working.

‘johnathonmedium’ said on our website: “I’ve heard a lot about this whereby the people that are doing the assessing are non-medical with no medical training or qualifications which seems to me to be a very dangerous game of playing doctor.”