Sheila Gilmore MP today said it was hugely disappointing that the Government have refused to pay sick and disabled people benefits while they appeal against incorrect ‘Fit for Work’ decisions. This was a key recommendation from a report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, of which she is a member.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) provides support for people who cannot work due to a health condition or disability. Entitlement is determined by the controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Previously claimants who were declared ‘Fit for Work’ and wished to challenge their decision were paid ESA at a reduced rate throughout the appeal process. However since October 2013 claimants have had to submit an informal appeal – known as a mandatory reconsideration – to a DWP civil servant, and only if they are still refused benefit can they take their case to a judge.
During mandatory reconsideration, a claimant’s only option is to claim Jobseekers Allowance, which entails applying for jobs and attending regular appointments. As a result many sick and disabled people have been refused JSA or sanctioned, leaving them stuck between benefits and without any income.
The Committee called for claimants to be paid ESA during the mandatory reconsideration process, but in the Government’s formal response to the committee published today, DWP Ministers have refused this request.
Sheila Gilmore said:
I regularly meet sick and disabled people who are unable to work but who have been declared fit to do so following a flawed ESA assessment.
Since last year people in this position have been forced to claim Jobseekers Allowance when they initially challenge an incorrect decision. Many are refused or quickly sanctioned, leaving them without money for periods of up to ten weeks.
In July the Work and Pensions Select Committee recommended that claimants are paid ESA throughout the application process. We noted that this shouldn’t cost any extra money, unless DWP are already factoring in sick and disabled people being unable to claim JSA.
Unfortunately we now learn that Iain Duncan Smith and his department have refused this request. In doing so they are deliberately leaving vulnerable people stuck between benefits – too fit for ESA but too sick or disabled for JSA. Conservative and Liberal Democrat Ministers should be ashamed.
Notes to Editors
The key paragraph of the Committee’s report reads:
However, DWP needs to set a reasonable timescale for the MR process, rather than this being left open-ended. The current illogical arrangement whereby claimants seeking MR are required to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) instead of ESA should be abolished. Official statistics showing the impact of MR on the number of appeals and on outcomes for claimants should be published as a matter of urgency.
See page 36 of the document for context: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmworpen/302/302.pdf
They key paragraph of the Government’s response reads:
When claimants are found fit for work, unless the decision is overturned, that decision is in law a final decision and there is no legal basis on which to continue to make any ESA payments.
See page 24 of the document for context: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/employment-and-support-allowance-and-work-capability-assessments-response-to-the-work-and-pensions-committee
For more information on these issues see Sheila Gilmore’s website:
For more information please contact Matt Brennan, Parliamentary Assistant to Sheila Gilmore MP, on 020 7219 7062, 07742 986 513 or email@example.com.