Incapacity Benefit review ‘too harsh’

Published Monday, 26 March 2012
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Concerns have been raised that the new regime for Incapacity Benefits is "too harsh", with one in six expected to be judged fit to work after being reassessed.

Incapacity Benefit review ‘too harsh’
Those found to be capable of working are now receiving Jobseekers Allowance. (© Getty)

All 76,000 recipients of the allowance, which is given to those not medically able to hold down a job in Northern Ireland, are being reviewed.

The evidence so far shows dramatic results.

More than 2,000 claimants have already been judged work capable, while further 4,262 were deemed to have some capability

When that process is complete, around one in six of those on incapacity benefit will not be able to move on to its replacement, the Employment and Support Allowance.

One charity has an explanation as to how the authorities have been able to declare those previously judged unable to work now in a position to take up a job.

"They have done that arguably by making the medical test harder," Kevin Higgins, from Advice NI, told UTV.

"In our view, too harsh so I think the figures are just bearing out and a harsher medical test, not that people aren't fit for work, not that people don't have problems, it is simply the barriers are arguably too high."

Of those who have been found fit for work, 1,368 have appealed against the decision. In 97 cases the appeal has been upheld in their favour.

Welfare rights adviser Agnes Fraser says the new testing system is too strict and over complicated.

"We would deal with 400 enquiries per month, 50% of those enquiries would be in around employment and support allowance.

"We find that over 90% of people who present at our office, who have been for their medical, come in here and they would have zero points from the medical that was carried out," she explained.

Ms Fraser says the system is not working.

She said around 75% of the people they put through the appeal system are successful.

But the Social Development Minister says he has no plans to change tack.

Nelson McCausland said: "The current system is clearly in need of reform because it was leaving people year after year on incapacity benefit with no support or intervention.

"The fact is 80% of people on incapacity benefit are on it for more than four years."

Everyone in the region who is currently in receipt of Incapacity Benefit - as well as Severe Disablement Allowance or Income Support paid on the grounds of incapacity - will have to take part in the Work Capability Assessment programme.

The DUP minister said the process is expected to be completed by March 2014.

© UTV News
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28 Comments
tel in lanzarote wrote (851 days ago):
The mother of a murdered police officer speaks about her loss a year on and no one comments...take benefits of those the government no longer wish to sponser and the country is in uproar. It says a lot for our community. Shame on you all
paul @Whattaboutye in Belfast wrote (851 days ago):
I go past the same people day in and day out standing outside the pub. Same faces shouting in jest to each other that it's DLA day. All with happy grins knowing they are fleecing the taxpayer out of money.
GLORIA in belfast wrote (852 days ago):
hi. I applied for esa as i had fall in mournes and was awaiting keyhole surgery.i was sent for an acessment witch i was deemed fit for work,fair enough. only to return to work i must pass a board. when i atteded hosp i was informed arthritis had set in in knee ,got injection and surgery was not an option as would make worse, then right knee became sore so i reapplied for esa/sickness..refused as apparently the doctor at board had looked at both knees. i have not had any payments since july 2011, when i phoned james house i was rudely spoken to phone hung up and just left hanging,not knowing where to turn. i am not on incapicity nor dla nor would i wish to be, but if u r ill what do you do?i have a thyroid condition which is way out of control and currently recieveing med to try to slow it down. up until fall i worked with special needs and agency doing 80hrs per wk,i do not have any income nor savings, where do i go ???
Mick in Belfast in Belfast wrote (852 days ago):
@OLD SOD in Fermanagh ! Yes they do actually I have had Stephen Nolan researchers call me several times already this year,BT get back to me quite a lot Talk back as well so YES I do get a wide audience,additionaly I write to MLAs as well .Lets face facts the Government are trying to claw back money in the short term , Why do they get Untrained nurses to do Mental Health checks? The NHS is a mess! full of people in the top who have NO HEALTH SERVICE Training.we can liken it to putting someone in charge of the FIRE SERVICE who is not a firefighter ! SIMPLE !
Iseult in NI wrote (852 days ago):
Perhaps there needs to be a change in the level of benefit paid to both those on JSA and ESA or Incapacity Benefit. The higher amounts paid to those who are sick are IMO a temptation to those who are prepared to lie to get the higher benefit. If the rates for both were the same, it would remove that temptation. It's strange how the number of people claiming sickness benefits has escalated over the years, out of all proportion, as the rates for sick people were increased - I don't think this can all be down to coincidence somehow. I imagine most of us must know at least one person claiming IB or ESA who is perfectly capable of working. There's a young man living near me who openly boasts of fooling his own doctor into thinking he's sick, he's never had a job since leaving school and says people who work are mugs. I also know a woman who was made redundant, went on JSA but then later decided she'd prefer to be on ESA; she claimed it, citing an entirely fictitious bladder problem, and is now happily getting the benefit of her choice. She told me she'd be happy to work, but only if the job pays the £9+ per hour she was getting in her previous job. I feel very sorry for genuinely sick people when I think of the stunts some people pull to get these benefits, especially as I know genuinely sick people don't want to be sick, they want to get well and be able to work again.
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