Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Incapacity claimants 'fit for work'

A 'substantial number' of incapacity benefit claimants have the potential to return to work, ministers say

The first Government programme to reassess people on incapacity benefit showed that a "substantial number" of claimants have the potential to return to work, ministers have announced.

Provisional figures of 1,347 reassessments in Burnley and Aberdeen showed that 399 (29.6%) were found to be fit for work, 422 (31.3%) will receive unconditional support and 526 (39%) could look for work "with the right help and support".

The programme will be rolled out to other areas later this month before a nationwide launch across Britain in April, covering 1.5 million people.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: "The initial findings from Burnley and Aberdeen serve to underline why it's right to reassess incapacity benefit claimants and to launch the Work Programme to give those who can work the specialist help they need to do so.

"Too many people were simply abandoned to a life on benefits. We are determined to put a stop to that terrible waste of potential."

The Department for Work and Pensions announced last month that most people applying for a sickness-related benefit were either being found to be fit for work or stopped their claim before completing a medical assessment.

A report showed that 39% of people claiming the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) between October 2008 and last May were found to be fit for work, so will switch to claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.

In a further 36% of cases, claims were closed before a medical assessment was completed, while 3% of claims are still being assessed.

Ministers said the figures show why they are determined to reform the welfare system and press ahead with the reassessment of those on the old-style incapacity benefit, which the ESA replaces.

Last month's report covered new claims, whereas the new study counted current claimants in the two areas.

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