Socialist Worker

Incapacity benefit cut is a sick attack on vulnerable

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2224

In their desperate drive to slash spending, the Tories are targeting the most vulnerable.

A Department for Work and Pensions trial has begun in Aberdeen and Burnley to reassess the eligibility of people on incapacity benefit for work—once completed it will be rolled out across Britain.

The department’s bosses have already said that around 23 percent of those tested will be declared fit for work immediately.

The aim is to force disabled or ill people onto lower, cheaper benefits and into low paid work.

The Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is £96.85 a week.

Being moved on to Jobseeker’s Allowance at £65.45 a week will mean a drop of £1,633 a year.

Paul Hogarth from Burnley Citizens’ Advice Bureau said, “One of our clients was told to go back to work... within weeks they were diagnosed with terminal cancer with only weeks to live.”

The Burnley office has represented 60 people at tribunals in the past year and over 80 percent were successful.

Country-wide, Tribunals Service figures show a 128 percent increase in ESA appeals for the first quarter of 2010 compared to 2009.

Unemployed Workers Centre coordinator Colin Hampton described the move as “a sick way to treat the sick.”

The stress for those facing testing is made worse by the fact that there are so few jobs. In Burnley there are ten applicants for every job.

And research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that across the economy five unemployed people chase every job. For disabled people the situation is even tougher.

A Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development survey found that 33 percent of its members admitted excluding people with a history of long-term sickness or incapacity from employment.

Government claims to be “helping” people back to work is a simple excuse to slash benefits, leaving them worse off.


No points for tester Atos

Atos Origins Ltd is the company contracted by the DWP to run the medical tests.

It’s part of a DWP contract with Atos worth £47 million.

The TUC has identified a number of people awarded “0 points” by Atos, declaring them fit to work, after they had previously been declared unfit.

Sue Hutchings had breast cancer which spread. She was in the middle of surgical treatment when Atos assessed her, giving her “0 points” and declaring that she “could not be treated as having limited capability for work.”

This was despite her GP writing that she was unfit for work. Sue appealed, won, and is now in remission. But many will lack the knowledge and confidence to appeal.


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Article information

News
Tue 19 Oct 2010, 18:53 BST
Issue No. 2224
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