2,510,000 people are estimated to have been claiming either Employment Support Allowance, or the benefit it is replacing Incapacity Benefit, in July 2014. This is around 70,000 higher than a year earlier and the higest number since Summer 2012.
With Atos assessments finding people with cancer and other serious health conditions ‘fit for work’, there can be no doubt that these claims are genuine. Yet despite hundreds of thousands of people having benefits slashed due to the bungled health tests, it seems that people are still getting sick.
This is hardly suprising. Despite the endless propaganda from the DWP, the UK did not have significantly more people on out of work sickness or disability benefits than comparable economies even before the current callous regime was introduced. In any society there will be some people who are not able to work due to a health condition, accident or serious disability. No amount of assessments, workfare or benefit sanctions will change that.
It would come as a shock to the out of touch bureacrats at the DWP that there have always been many people on long term unemployment benefits who in reality shold have probably been on the sick. Some people feel making a claim for sickness benefits is giving up, others, particularly those with mental health conditions, may not be diagnosed or have a full understanding of their condtion. One reason for a rise in sickness benefit claimants – at a time when unemployment is allegedly falling – may be that workfare and the endless ‘work related activity’ imposed by Jobcentres is making these people too ill to stay on unemployment benefit.
There is some evidence for this. A DWP evaluation in 2012 found that people referred to Mandaory Work Activity were more likely to make a claim for sickness benefits than those who didn’t face workfare. Other evidence shows that the assessment process for sickness benefits may be having a devastating impact on people’s mentak health. Other reports have shown how benefit sanctions have caused people to be unable to meet special dietry needs, or going hungry, or being forced to beg or go through bins to find food.
Whatever the reason, and the huge backlog in sickness benefit assessents will be another factor, the number of people unable to work due to sickness or disability now looks set to have risen steadily over the past seven months. It increasingly looks the case that all Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms have done for people on sickness benefits is make them sicker.
You can read the latest figures at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/dwp-statistical-summaries-2014
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