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The cost of government crackdown on disability benefits

If the labour party are to be believed the cost of tribunals hearing employment and support allowance (ESA) appeals trebled from £21m in 2009/10 to £66m in 2012/13. According to the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) needed to “get a grip” and laid part of the blame with Atos, the company that is contracted to manage work capability assessments on behalf of the DWP. Mr Bryrne also claims that “more decisions are wrong than ever before”.
However, a spokesman for the department for work and pensions said the new figures were “completely unsurprising”, as the number of work capability assessments for new claims rose from 648,000 in 2009/10 to 723,000 in 2011/12. and added that, overall, only 15 per cent of all fit for work decisions were overturned on appeal.

The Justice Minister Helen Grant did admit that an increase in the number of appeals was partly to blame for the increase in costs to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
Sarah Lambert, head of policy at the National Autistic Society (NAS), said: “These figures show what the NAS has long been arguing – the current system is producing too many wrong decisions which are inevitably costing more to the taxpayer.
“It’s a false economy. Without proper training so that assessors understand the complexities of the disabilities they are considering, this will continue.
“Wasting public money and causing stress and anxiety to genuine claimants is neither fair nor workable. The Government must get its house in order.”

A spokesman for the department for work and pensions said: “It is completely unsurprising that the number and cost of appeals has risen, because the number of work capability assessments carried out has increased substantially since we started reassessing 1.5 million incapacity benefit claimants in 2010.
“We have made significant improvements to the assessment since 2010, and the percentage of people getting long-term unconditional support has more than doubled in two years.”

Have your say

What do you think about the Governments crackdown on disability benefits? Are many people loosing benefits due to an unfair heavy handed system? or does the new system ensure the right people are getting the right benefits?