Will the government ignore new study showing sick benefit tests are biased against the poor?

The research revealed that areas with higher rates of disability and illness found claimants fit for work more often than healthier areas [Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images].
The research revealed that areas with higher rates of disability and illness found claimants fit for work more often than healthier areas [Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images].

This Writer is willing to bet the answer is “yes”.

The research clearly shows that the Work Capability Assessment is unfit to be used as any indicator of a person’s health. We all knew that already but this evidence proves it.

If the test was accurate, then areas with lower disability and ill health would find more people fit for work. Instead, we’re seeing the opposite – areas where people have the most need for ESA, with higher poverty and higher disability, are removing it at a higher rate.

And here’s something very interesting: The research has established a significant relationship between work capability assessment outcomes and local educational attainment. In areas where children finish school with more GCSEs, claimants were placed into the support group more frequently.

Doesn’t this suggest that people with the awareness to realise the test is rigged – and who can then take action to counteract its prejudice – are better-equipped to succeed in a claim than those who have to trust in the government’s claims that it is fair?

The research suggests that the test was designed from the outset to cut support for sick and disabled people, rather than target it to those who need it the most.

But we all knew that already, didn’t we?

It is only a few months since This Writer was present at a tribunal in which the claimant was allowed into the Support Group of ESA after saying the assessment system had induced her to consider taking her own life.

Now, I can’t say that this was the reason the benefit was granted, but the fear of such a death – and the publicity it would generate, were it made clear that the assessment process itself had caused the claimant to consider it – must be huge, if the basis of the assessment isn’t rock-solid medical evidence.

And we know it isn’t.

The basis of the assessment is a tick-box, multiple-choice test that relies on the opinion of assessors who often know little about the illness they are testing, and discounts the medical evidence of the claimant’s doctors.

Its base-level presumption is that the illness causing the claimant to request state benefit is all in their mind, or that they are trying to claim fraudulently.

This evidence will fuel claims that the imposition of ESA, PIP and the Work Capability Assessment has led to premature deaths.

But the DWP has already discounted it – supporting its assertion with… well, nothing, really.

It’s typical of the lazy attitude nurtured in that government department since Iain Duncan Smith took over in 2010, and by both secretaries of state since.

“Fit for work” tests are “significantly biased” against claimants in poor areas of the country, new research shows.

Analysis of more than a million incapacity benefit claimants who have been re-assessed for employment and support allowance (ESA), the benefit for people too disabled or ill to work, shows the controversial work capability assessment is disproportionately removing benefits from people in more deprived regions.

At the same time, it found claimants in wealthier areas are more likely not only to retain their sickness benefits – and avoid being declared fit for work – but to be placed in the support group of ESA, in which claimants are not required to undertake any form of work preparation and receive the highest benefit rate.

Source: ‘Biased’ fit for work tests penalise poorer people | Frances Ryan | Society | The Guardian

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7 Thoughts to “Will the government ignore new study showing sick benefit tests are biased against the poor?”

  1. realise the test is rigged of course it was set up by a cowboy company unum yet their backhanders are large and to give those up they myst first cut of their noses hmmm greed hay

  2. Definitely. without any doubt whatsoever!

  3. Dez

    Another litmus test for our new beloved leader Mrs. May to start showing she means what she says about equality for all levels of society not just the rich……Naaah forget the thought she’s Con blue through and through. Talks a good talk but then buries the issue.

  4. Joan Edington

    Of course they will ignore the report, as they ignore anything that disagrees with their own policies.

    I am waiting to see what happens in Scotland next year when the assessments, PIP, ESA etc come under our control. Although we still have to bear JSA and sanctions under Westminster control, the disability area alone could make a diffference. The SG are setting up a Welfare Department, talking about kicking out ATOS et al, bringing the assessments in-house and, heaven forfend, basing them on GPs’ evidence. I remember those days. I hope it all works out because, if it does, hopefully it could be used as evidence against the system in other parts of the UK.

    1. Mike Sivier

      This seems like an excellent plan and I am 100 per cent in support.

  5. We have a family friend who, despite plenty of evidence that he was unfit for work, and that his life span has been severely shortened by his health problems, who was told that his ESA was being taken away, and that he was fit for work.
    He had filled in the renewal form himself, but wasn’t a totally fluent english speaker, and had only a basic education. I told him to apply again, and I helped him to fill in the forms, in the way I had been shown how to do by the Benefits and Work site – and he passed immediately.
    I’ve known for some time just how biased this test is, especially for those who struggle with our language, and it’s sometimes labyrinthine useage, but these results proved to me, with no doubt whatsoever, that it really is 🙁

  6. Of course they will, this is the tories we’re talking about, they ignore anything that tells the truth for they don’t believe and like the truth!

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