2.485 million people were claiming Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit in April, representing a steady rise of 1.2% since November 2013. This comes despite the horrific Atos regime which has seen hundreds of thousands of claimants being stripped of benefits after being assessed as ‘fit for work’. The number of people on out of work sickness benefits should be plummeting, and it was until just over a year ago.
It is hardly surprising that people are still becoming ill or disabled despite the magical Atos assessments. The UK did not have significantly more people on out of work sickness or disability benefits than other comparable countries even before the despised Work Capability Assessment began. It is unusual however that the number of people unable to work for health reasons should be rising at a time when unemployment is allegedly falling.
There is growing evidence that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are damaging people’s health. Some parts of the UK have reported soaring malnutrition linked to benefit cuts. A report produced by Citizen’s Advice last year told of people being unable to meet special dietary needs due to sanctions or having to beg or go through bins to find food. Homelessness charities have said that sanctions are causing people to lose their homes. And a damning report by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland claimed that 35% of psychiatrists said at least one of their patients had been admitted to hospital as a consequence of the stress of Atos assessments.
Using hunger and homelessness as a weapon against benefit claimants will not incentivise people to find work, it will demolish lives. Forcing people with mental health conditions into stressful and demeaning assessments under the threat of destitution will not magically cure them of their condition – in many cases it will make it worse. Iain Duncan Smith really is making us sick, and with more workfare and sanctions on the way then things are only going to get worse.
The latest ESA figures can be downloaded from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-statistical-summaries-2014
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