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High refusal and drop out rates do not prove 'Work Capability Assessment' works

Thursday, April 28, 2011

NAT (National AIDS Trust) responds to figures released today from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which show 75% of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants are found either ‘fit for work’ or drop their claim before they’re completed. 

Based on these statistics, Ministers believe they are ’right to press ahead with the reassessment of those on old style Incapacity Benefits’. However, research by NAT has shown that people living with HIV are being found ‘fit for work’ despite medical evidence showing them to have a range of serious physical and mental health problems. These include severe immune deficiency, co-infection with pneumonia or TB, fatigue, depression and debilitating side-effects from essential HIV treatment.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:
‘The refusal of 39% of ESA claims is not conclusive evidence that Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is effective. These claimants may be found ‘fit for work’ under the rules of WCA, but many face very real health-related barriers to work which have been overlooked during the assessment process. 
‘NAT is extremely concerned by the high drop out rate of 36% closing a claim before a decision on their benefits is reached. Withdrawing a claim is not proof of ineligibility for ESA. An independent review of the WCA revealed serious problems with decision-making and administration in the ESA system, and real failures in the way the DWP communicated with claimants. Stopping a claim halfway through the process points towards these fundamental flaws in the system – which are yet to be resolved – as much as the merits of the claim itself.’

- Ends -

Notes to the editor:

DWP statistics can be found here

NAT’s report ‘Unseen disability, Unmet needs - A review of the impact of Work Capability Assessment on people living with HIV’ can be found here

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is the test undertaken to determine whether a person is eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The WCA aims to identify claimants who have ‘limited capacity for work’ or ‘limited capacity for work-related activity’, so that they may receive the right support to help them live well and (where appropriate) return to work. Those who are found ‘fit for work’ are not entitled to receive ESA. The test contains a series of questions, called ‘descriptors’, which relate to physical and mental functions, and from which claimants score points.

The report of the Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment can be found here

In October 2008, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced to replace Incapacity Benefit and Incapacity-based Income Support as the primary income support benefit for people who are unable to work due to disability or illness.

For further information please contact:  

Charli Scouller
Communications Manager 
020 7814 6733

NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expert advice and practical resources. We campaign for change.
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