It would, of course, be wrong for us to expect the DWP to admit the poor quality of its Work Capability Assessment tests – the Conservative Government still has far too many coincidental deaths to arrange.
Cynical? Maybe, but with costs rising and the claimant count as high as it ever was, we can see that the Tory approach is wrong.
The Conservative Government’s only answer to high benefit take-up is to change the conditions so fewer people qualify – even if this means refusing help to people with serious, or indeed life-threatening, health conditions.
The correct approach is to examine the causes of long-term illness and disability and work to eradicate them, rather than to label legitimate benefit claimants as “malingerers”, as Mansel Aylward (then of the DWP) and John LoCascio (of criminal US insurance firm Unum) did back in 2003.
Until a future government accepts this simple fact, costs will rise, deaths will increase, and the excuses will become less and less believable.
Disability benefit assessments have doubled in cost to £579m a year but targets are still being missed, the National Audit Office has said.
The spending watchdog found the quality of the tests was also not improving despite more being done face-to-face.
Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the public accounts committee, said the cost was “staggering” and sick and disabled people needed “a better deal”.
The Department for Work and Pensions said the quality of tests had improved.
Health assessments for Employment and Support Allowance are carried out to assess people’s capability for work.
They were brought in to reduce the number of claimants but the department has constantly struggled with delays and controversy with disability campaigners claiming they have led to rising suicide and depression rates.
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