Quarter of people claiming incapacity benefits fit for work

Quarter of people claiming incapacity benefits fit for work

The figures are likely to add weight to the theory that Labour used incapacity benefit to fudge the statistics and keep down unemployment figures.

Mike Penning, Minister of State for Disabled People, said: “We spend more than £13bn sickness and incapacity benefits for almost 2.5 million people of working age and we need to make sure that support goes to those who need it most.

“It’s right that we look at whether people can do some kind of work with the right support – rather than just writing them off on long-term sickness benefits, as has happened in the past.

“We recognise that with the right support, many people with illness, health conditions or disability can fulfil their aspiration to get or stay in work.”

To be eligible for the new benefit most claimants must meet with an independent health professional who will assess their fitness to work – except in special circumstances, for example where someone has a terminal illness.

Some 2.6 million people were claiming incapacity benefit when ESA was introduced in 2008.

In separate tests 42 per cent of those already claiming the new benefit were discovered to be fit for work, the Daily Mail reported.

Figures from the latest quarter, up until February 2013, show that almost 33,000 people who were assessed in order to try and claim ESA were found fit for work.

Almost 70,000 who applied withdrew their claims before they went for the Work Capability Assessment, and the DWP add that this is because many will have had improvements in their health.

Work capability assessments have been highly controversial since they were first piloted under Labour in 2008 and later rolled out across the country under the coalition.

Critics claim the tests have been skewed towards forcing people back to work and the results have been challenged by thousands of disabled people.

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