Just when you thought the Coalition Government couldn’t get any worse they have gone and surpassed themselves. According to the New Statesman the Coalition is considering suspending the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) of disabled people who appeal against their Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
There are several things wrong with this proposal:
- The Employment and Support Allowance, replacing Incapacity Benefit, is supposed to support disabled people who can’t, or are trying to find their way back in to, work. Suspending it would only increase the likelihood of people’s illnesses becoming worse.
- The threat of ESA being suspended would make many people decide not to appeal against a Work Capability Assessment, and make life very difficult for those who do.
- Many people are already too scared, intimidated or just incapable of appealing. Of those who do, 40% of appeals are upheld. By dissuading people from appealing the Government risks forcing even more people in to work they are not capable of doing.
- Unemployment is currently running at record levels. The last thing the labour market needs is even more people being forced in to work, reducing employment opportunities for others.
- If people did choose to appeal a tremendous strain could be put on carers, many of who will be family members.
- The Work Capability Assessment test is inflicted on disabled people by ATOS, a private company which has a financial incentive in finding people fit for work. The test is already known to be flawed, as the 40% success rate of appeals attests. Coercing people to not appeal might make the figures look better but will do nothing to address the fundamental problems with the testing process, leaving many more people at risk of being inaccurately judged fit for work.
It’s hard to see this as anything other than an attempt to reduce appeals, their associated costs and to force disabled people in to work. All of this is just a continuation of the Government’s attack on the most vulnerable, an attack the media are all too happy to perpetuate. It should be remembered that benefit fraud amounts to just £1.6 billion annually, far exceeded by the £6 billion goes unclaimed every year and dwarfed by the estimated £120 billion that we lose through the tax gap.
99.5% of sickness benefit claims are genuine.
Actions To Take
You can write to your MP about this issue through writetothem.com. If you do write to your mp please let us know what, if any, response you received (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You could also raise this with your branch committee and write a branch motion, statement etc.
Raise the issue with colleagues and ask them to get involved. This proposal is still in its very earliest stages and we can stop it if enough of us act quickly enough.
Judged Fit to Work? You Could Lose Your Benefits If You Appeal, New Statesman, 14/10/2011
The PCS ‘Welfare: An Alternative Vision’ Booklet (PCS site)