More bilge on disability benefits
I suppose I should be used to it by now, but every time the statistics for the Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance come out the press coverage makes my blood boil. Today’s Daily Mail had a perfect example:
Just one in 14 disability handout applicants are too ill to work
(By the way, don’t you just love the way our language has evolved, we’ve gone from “social security” to “welfare” and now the right-wing papers can’t run a benefit item without talking about “handouts”.)
Let’s have a look at what today’s statistics actually show. When people applying for ESA were tested these were the results:
- 7% were placed in the Support Group (people who are expected to be on the benefit for a long time).
- 17% in the Work Related Activity Group (people who are expected to be able to work one day, but not now).
- 39% fit for work.
- 36% closed their claim before their assessment was complete.
In other words, the number found fit for work at the test is 39%. The same set of statistics show that 37% appeal and 39% of these appeals are successful – which brings the percentage found fit for work down to 33%.
The really evil point about these stories is that the 17% in the Work Related Activity Group aren’t people who are fit trying to claim a benefit they are entitled to – they are entitled, but on a short-term basis, not long-term. The fact that they are expected to be fit for work at a future point doesn’t mean they’re malingering now.
Finally, the coverage insinuates that people who close their claims were trying it on. The commonest reason for closing a claim is that the claimant missed an appointment or didn’t fill in a form properly. There can be 101 reasons that have nothing to do with malingering – someone who is too ill to make their assessment will sometimes have to close their claim and start again.
And some people will just have got better. The DWP classifies claims in 21 health condition groups. Over half the 485,500 claims where the case was closed early were for people in just 3 of them:
- 136,500 early closed cases are people with “mental and behavioural disorders”.
- 51,400 are people with “diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue”.
- 96,200 are people with “injury, poisoning and certain other consequences of external causes”.
These are all categories that are likely to include large numbers of people who have recovered and are ready for work again before their case is assessed.
We know that the Work Capability Assessment is a tougher test than the one it replaced – it was designed to exclude more people. So when it does actually exclude more people it doesn’t say anything about people trying it on.
And what is the government actually doing to help disabled people get into work whilst cracking down on the benefits they get out of work?
Today they released the Access to Work statistics, which show that, in 2010/11 the total number of individuals helped by the scheme fell by just over 1400. It takes some nerve to make it harder for people to get benefits because they should be out looking for work whilst at the same time cutting back on the support that actually helps them to do so.
UPDATE: Deeper in the bilge. The Express are at it too…