From the TUC

More bilge on disability benefits

26 Jul 2011, by in Society & Welfare

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…

10 Responses to More bilge on disability benefits

  1. Rebecca Johnson Bista
    Jul 26th 2011, 8:53 pm

    Thanks Richard – I’d been looking for some more accurate reporting of this all afternoon! What infuriates me even more (as both a journalist AND now a claimant of ESA myself) is that the BBC simply parroted on Radio 4 exactly what the Daily Mail said. Is that unbiased? I think not. I have posted on Facebook. Much appreciated.

  2. Richard Dawson
    Jul 26th 2011, 10:12 pm

    But we have to do something about it its choking us to death.Any changes unfortunately will hit the most vulnerable however carefully implemented.

    I have a colleague who is severely disabled person who chooses to work yet other say they can’t doesnt make sense.

  3. Lee
    Jul 27th 2011, 12:56 pm

    I’ve got Asperger’s syndrome and although I’m capable of doing many of the tasks required in doing a job it has been impossible for me to actually get a job as yet; and I’m 49. Through no fault of my own, my presence in a place of work would be very disruptive in terms ofthe adaptations and allowances that would have to be made.

    Am I fit for work? Technically I am because I’m receiving jobseeker’s allowance and am required to sign on at the jobcentre.

  4. Government’s spin war against disabled continues | Left Foot Forward
    Jul 27th 2011, 1:15 pm

    […] writes: Let’s have a look at what today’s statistics actually […]

  5. Deeper in the Bilge | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC
    Jul 27th 2011, 2:41 pm

    […] not going to repeat the rebuttal arguments I set out yesterday, but let’s just address that Express claim. They get their figure by adding 39 per cent found […]

  6. Peter Lockhart
    Jul 27th 2011, 8:06 pm

    I never ever thought i;d feel this way. I’ve always shouted people down who wish bad on anyone, ive always hoped that no one else had to suffer the health problems and disability I now suffer and I never wanted to see anyone else having to use a wheelchair . However, thats changed, i;ve read so many comments like Richard Dawson’s above, so many who seem quite incapable of any kine of emplathy, who are happy to see people like me suffer and then have even more indignities thrust upon us that now I hope they do get some illness that causes pain, distress and puts them in a wheelchair, that leads them to have the indignity of hospital tests and have to rely on carers and then on top of all that get paid off from long term jobs because of ill health. Then, the DWP tell them that, despite the fact they will find it 100 times harder than healthy people, despite the fact that just getting through a day can be a struggle they now have to look for work.

    So Richard Dawson, I hope to hell you get some non life threatening illness but one that debilitates you, make you need carers and then go through the indignity of the WCA and be told to find work.

  7. Verity Smart
    Jul 27th 2011, 8:06 pm

    @Richard Dawson have you ever been on long term sick and needed benefits? If your answer is no then you are judging your fellow human with no experience of what they’re going through.

    You can’t judge one case as a “one size fit’s all.” Every case is unique.

    Secondly, at what point is it right for the poor and vulnerable to suffer for a deficit caused by the rich whilst those rich get tax breaks and most don’t pay their taxes?

    Lastly, many who are in receipt of benefits paid to be insured against ill health and benefits are little more than workers claiming on their insurance which they paid through forced deductions. ITS NOT NOW AND NEVER HAS BEEN FREE!

    If this government doesn’t want to pay out welfare to the people whose money they’re scrounged by all means put an end to it, but in turn desist with forced deductions and give us all refunds.

  8. dave best
    Jul 28th 2011, 6:15 pm

    7 % of the number tested amounts to about 2.5 million over a working life time showing that the number on incapacity benefit are about right.
    Ie that 99% of incapacity benefits claimants are unfit for work.

    (100,000 over 2 years = 2.5 million over 50 years)

  9. Robert
    Jul 31st 2011, 11:51 pm

    In 1990 I fell at work landing I looked down and said oh shit I landed and a piece of wood has come through my leg, I leaned forward top pull this bit of wood out, and grabbed this white bit of wood, it was my tibia, leg bone. I then passed out falling to the ground.

    The fall had actually broken my back causing a lesion of the spinal cord, I now have no bowel or bladder function, but after four years of hard work I did learn to walk again, but to walk I must watch each step, you see I cannot feel my feet. So before I step now and then use my other foot I have to make sure I have actually taken that step. If not then sadly my face hits the floor.

    To pee I shove a Catheter up through my penis into my bladder it’s OK I cannot feel it, sexual function nope gone.

    I also remember that day I broke my back, of spitting my teeth out on the floor.

    To open my bowels I actually use drugs and then use a finger leave the rest to your imagination.

    What else do I have wrong, three disc removed from my spine, plates in both my legs, fusion of the neck.

    I have a morphine pump planted under the skin attached to my stomach muscles that’s because I have chronic pain.

    But hell if I can find work i would work, nobody wants to sit at home it’s like being dead before your time