MP's slam sickness benefit testing regime

Submitted by Matthew on 26 July, 2011 - 9:51

The Department for Work and Pensions Select Committee has described the process being used to reassess Incapacity Benefit claimants as "flawed".

A report by the committee concludes that the Work Capabilty Assessment - a short interview in which yes/no boxes are ticked on a computer screen - has led to "fear and anxiety among vulnerable people" and large numbers of claimants with serious and long-term medical problems having their benefits cut or stopped altogether.

The report goes on to say: "It is widely accepted that the Work Capability Assessment [WCA], as introduced in 2008, was flawed. This has been borne out by the high number of appeals and the high success rate of appellants. It was also reflected in the amount of evidence from individuals which expressed grievances with the way they were treated during the process and the accuracy of the outcome."

French IT company Atos receives £100m a year from the DWP to carry out the interviews and are currently reassessing around 11,000 Incapacity Benefit claimants a week.

The report also criticises the large number of Atos centres which are not accessible for people with disabilities: "It is unacceptable that disabled people should be called to attend an assessment at a centre which is inappropriately located, inaccessible to them or where reasonable adjustments cannot be made to accommodate special requirements arising from their health condition." As many disabilty and welfare rights activists have pointed out, it appears to be a deliberate Atos policy to site their centres in locations which people with disabilities find difficult to access and then when they struggle to get there under threat of having their benefits suspended use that as evidence that they are fit for work.

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