Only 19% of sick and disabled people have received an outcome on their sickness benefit claims they made last year, damning new figures reveal.
Government figures released today [Thursday] show that 40% of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claims between October 2013 and December 2013 were still undergoing assessment – no final decision has yet been made.
This instantly raised the interest of Yr Obdt Srvt. Remember the infamous DWP statistical release Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of recipients from 2012? Of the 10,600 deaths it showed took place between January and November 2011, 2,200 were of people in the assessment phase – and that was when the system was running much more quickly than it is now. So we must ask:
What is the death toll today, among ESA claimants whose claim has not been decided?
Despite signs of improvement, by March 2014 around a third of ESA claims (33%) were still in progress. The DWP said “additional cases from any original caseload would be cleared in subsequent periods”.
Figures also show that 41% of claimants decided to close their claim rather than be forced to attend stressful and degrading face to face assessments.
Cue Grant Shapps and Iain Duncan Smith, claiming these people know “they’ll now be better off in work” – so let’s just remind you of Vox Political‘s response to the claim: In fact, the figures represented nothing more than ‘churn’ – a turnover of claims withdrawn because of perfectly normal things like people getting better, or finding a job they can do even if they’re ill. After the government intensified its scrutiny of disabled people, the number in receipt of the benefit increased.
The Department for Work and Pensions says the delay in final decisions is due to changes in the decision-making process. Under changes introduced to the benefits appeal process in October 2013, sick and disabled people who disagree with a decision must first ask the DWP to look at the decision again – before they can apply to appeal to a social security tribunal [see the article on the subject from earlier today]. The figures exclude decisions made after tribunal appeals.
Would this be because tribunal decisions are mostly in favour of the claimant?
In related news, the new Minister for Disabled People has admitted that the disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP) “is not in good shape”.
Despite a pledge to speed up the claims process Mark Harper admitted that disabled people will still face a wait of up to six months before they receive vital benefit cash.
Dame Anne Begg, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, asked: “Do you think that’s an acceptable length of time for someone who has developed a disability, and suddenly has a lot of associated costs?”
In response Mark Harper said: “I’d like it to be faster – but there’s no point getting ahead of ourselves. It’s moving in the right direction”.
Oh really? How many people have suffered serious financial hardship because of these delays? How many suffered threats to their health? How many have died?
Let’s try to predict the DWP response: “We do not collect those statistics.” Alternatively: “Collation of those statistics would cost more than the maximum amount allowed for FOI requests.”
This is unacceptable. Has everybody forgotten that we pay taxes for the government to provide a service to the public?
This government likes to praise the private sector and commercial business practices above all else – but if it was a private enterprise, it would very soon be hounded out of business, pursued by thousands upon thousands of court cases.
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