Incapacity benefits testing flawed
The incapacity benefit assessment process is confusing and not sufficiently easy for claimants to understand, a government report reveals.
The report, published today by the Work and Pensions select committee, claims that government measures to re-test claimants' ability to get back into work are failing.
Work capability assessments, which are undertaken by the Department for Work and Pensions contractor Atos Healthcare, came under particular scrutiny - and criticism. Chair of the committee Dame Anne Begg MP says there have been "failings in the service Atos Healthcare has provided, which has often fallen short of what claimants can rightly expect".
She adds: "This has contributed significantly to the mistrust which many claimants feel about the whole process.
"The Department needs to do more to ensure that Atos treats claimants properly and that it produces accurate assessments."
Work capability assessments were introduced in 2008 for new employment support allowance claimants and, according to the Work and Pensions committee, resulted in a large number of inaccurate assessments.
Government communication also needs to improve, according to the report.
Begg says that 'employment and support allowance', which will eventually replace incapacity benefits is confusing because it contains the word 'support': "It is used to describe employment support for those who can work on the one hand and financial support through benefits for those who cannot work on the other."
Karen Holmes, Welfare Benefits Specialist at Turn2us, agrees that the incapacity benefit reassessment process has led to "confusion and anxiety for some claimants".
She adds: "Whatever the result of the reassessment, it is important that people are not deterred from claiming the benefits they are entitled to, whether they are in or out of work. Our benefits checker can predict entitlement whatever your circumstances."
For information on benefits changes and what you may be able to claim for go to www.turn2us.org.uk.