One in three on disability benefits found to be fit to work

Hundreds of people on disability benefit have been found to be “fit for work” in parts of the Westcountry and stripped of the state hand-out, new figures reveal.

A Government clampdown on those “languishing” on incapacity benefit has seen 1,180 people told to find employment in Devon and Cornwall out of 3,530 people assessed. It represents around one-third of those vetted.

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But the true scale of the Department for Work and Pensions crackdown is yet to be revealed as less than one-in-ten people on the benefit have been tested. If the current rate continues, more than 16,000 could be told to find work.

While many will welcome a crackdown on bogus claimants swelling the welfare bill, critics warn it causes distress for people with genuine illnesses or disability.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: “These figures show how much of a waste of human life the current system has been. Too many people have been left languishing on benefits for too long.

“We are providing support to those who need it, but it is right that those who are able to work should do so. It’s much better to help people on the journey back to work than to leave them on benefits for the rest of their lives.”

Existing claimants will either be moved onto a new disability benefit called Employment and Support Allowance – which either means they do not have to work or will have to look for a job in the future – or Jobseekers Allowance. The process started in April last year.

Nationally around 1.5 million incapacity benefit claimants are being reassessed, of which around 54,120 are in Devon and Cornwall.

The crackdown in the region has produced varying results across the region. In Cornwall, 1,140 people were assessed of which 390 were found to be fit for work, or a rate of 34 per cent.

In Plymouth, officials ran the rule over 700 people and took the benefit away from 250 claimants, or 36 per cent. Some 400 people were vetted in Torbay and 130 – 34 per cent – have lost the hand-out.

Around 1,290 people were checked in the remaining eight district authority areas in Devon, and 400 were passed fit for work, a rate of around one-in-three. Around 42 per cent were told to work in West Devon – the highest rate in the region – but it was also the smallest assessment pool at 30 of 80 people.

Charities have said the figures will not be as high as there is an appeal success rate of up to 40 per cent.

Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View Alison Seabeck said she had been contacted by a number of constituents, worried about the review.

Ms Seabeck said: “It’s important that abuse where it happens is taken out of the system. It’s also important that people who can work and perhaps haven’t got the confidence are assisted to work.

“But what we have to avoid is that people who really can’t work are being asked to go through all sorts of hoops. Those people really shouldn’t have had the distress they have had. That’s down to the sensitivity of the test.

“As the process goes on one would hope it improves in terms of the quality of the assessment, and that lessons are learnt.”

Paul Champion
Strategic Project Manager

Mobile: 07540 704920

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