According to new research by Sheffield Hallam University, more than more half a million sick and disabled people could be forced out of the benefits system by 2014.
The researchers estimate that 600,000 people will lose their social security benefits as a result of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) being extended to people currently claiming Incapacity Benefit. ESA was introduced for new claimants in 2008.
Amid the rightful anger at the draconian and arbitrary ESA medical assessment which has seen hundreds of seriously ill people declared fit for work, another point is often overlooked. Even those who are passed unfit by the medical assessment will find themselves being means tested after a year and those with an occupational pension, savings or a partner who works will also lose their benefits.
The research also pinpoints the impoverished and deindustrialised areas where the throwing of sick and disabled people off benefits will be concentrated: Merthyr Tydfil, County Durham, Liverpool and Glasgow.
As co-author of the report Professor Steve Fothergill put it: "The estimates show that the coalition government is presiding over a national welfare reform that will impact principally on individuals and communities outside its own political heartlands.
"In terms of the numbers affected and the scale and severity of the impact, the reforms to incapacity benefits that are underway are probably the most far-reaching changes to the benefits system for at least a generation. They will impoverish vast numbers of households and cause untold distress in countless more."