MP’s fears for benefit claimants

Angela Smith
Angela Smith
Share this article
Have your say

A SOUTH Yorkshire MP is calling on the Government to change the way it asseses benefit claimants who may be too ill to work.

Work Capability Assessments are used to measure eligibility for the Employment and Support Allowance - which replaces Incapacity Benefit.

Penistone and Stocksbridge Labour MP Angela Smith said she was ‘particularly concerned’ people are seeing their benefit withdrawn because they may have a ‘fluctuating condition’, such as Parkinson’s disease, as sufferers can feel much better on some days and much worse on others.

She said: “I think it is agreed by most that it is in everyone’s interest that where possible people should be encouraged to work. However, that should not mean people who are genuinely unable to work are penalised unfairly.

“This is especially so for some people who suffer conditions such as emphysema, which is a long-term and sometimes terminal condition.

“These people may be fit for some form of work, albeit only for a few hours a week, and yet currently the system deems them available for any type of work. These people are currently failed by the system and that needs changing.”

Work and Pensions minister Chris Grayling said changes are being made.

He told Ms Smith: “I have no interest whatsoever in putting anybody who is not fit for work into a position whereby they are being pushed towards trying to find work.

“If somebody is not fit for work, an employer will not hire them, so we would achieve nothing from such an approach.”

Mr Grayling said Job Centre Plus staff making decisions are now ‘expected to look at other medical evidence submitted by the individual concerned and at the GP’s and consultant’s comments to form a rounded view’.

He added: “That is a big change. We have effectively downgraded the role of the work capability assessment in the process. It is an important part of the decision, but it is no longer the only part of the decision.”