How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim


9:05 am - February 15th 2011

by Richard Exell    


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How many disabled people on benefits are really fit for work? It’s an important question, prompted by a leak to the BBC of the results of a pilot programme published today.

Ministers are claiming that these results show that two thirds of people who get Incapacity Benefit or Income Support on the grounds of incapacity are “able to work.”. But that is entirely the wrong way of looking at it.

The figure sounds as though two thirds of people on these benefits are swinging the lead – and this is certainly the story newspapers have been telling recently.

But a little explanation is needed.

Since the mid 1990s, the main income replacement benefits for disabled people have been Incapacity Benefit and Income Support.

The Labour government brought in a new benefit to replace them, called Employment and Support Allowance, with a tougher eligibility test, called the Work Capability Assessment. One of the new government’s priorities has been to move people who currently get the old benefits over to ESA, which means applying the new test to them.

They expect this to take three years and the results that have been leaked are from a pilot project that’s mainly about finding out if there are going to be any operational problems. Its only running in two locations – Aberdeen and Burnley – so the numbers involved are quite small. (Which means we have to be a little cautious about the results.)

The results so far have been reported as:

  • 29.6% found fit for work
  • 31.3% in the support group
  • 39% in the work related activity group

I understand that about 12% of those found fit for work are appealing. About 40% of such appeals are successful; if that holds true the proportion finally found fit for work will come down to about a quarter.

So where do we get this guff about “two in three benefit claimants are fit to work? By adding together the group found fit for work and the people in the work-related activity group.

But the people in the work-related activity group aren’t fit to work, if they were they would have been found fit to work. Instead, they’ve been put in a group of people who are going to be helped to get back to work, but who don’t have to apply or look for jobs (which is what the benefits system requires of out-of-work non-disabled people).

The fact that they’re going to be able to work at a future point doesn’t mean they are malingering now.

Related
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Minister Lord Freud apologises over benefit fraud claims
1%: the real extent of benefit fraud
Fact: Labour did not ‘write people off’ to a lifetime on benefits

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About the author
Richard is an regular contributor. He is the TUC’s Senior Policy Officer covering social security, tax credits and labour market issues.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Fight the cuts ,Westminster

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Reader comments


The reality is that disabled people are being targeted by this government – whether it be through the Work Capability Assessment, changes to DLA, or as a result of referral to Work Choice or the Work Programme.

In a few months NDDP and Pathways to Work will come to an end – no great loss here as the results were not exactly overwhelming. Now the government believe WCA will return people to work when a) there are no jobs; b) there will be no personalised programmes available to refer disabled people onto in order to help them find work; and c) the government are restructuring the entire benefit system and disabled people could easily find themselves penalised.

The whole thing is a travesty

‘But the people in the work-related activity group aren’t fit to work, if they were they would have been found fit to work. Instead, they’ve been put in a group of people who are going to be helped to get back to work, but who don’t have to apply or look for jobs (which is what the benefits system requires of out-of-work non-disabled people).’

If they are being ‘helped to get back to work’ this rather contradicts the idea that unfit people are being ‘forced’ into unsuitable employment.

Shatterface @ 2

If they are being ‘helped to get back to work’ this rather contradicts the idea that unfit people are being ‘forced’ into unsuitable employment.

The term ‘helped back into work’ is a neat euphemism for ‘placed into forced labour’. You can bet your last quid that the vermin responsible for this vicious act are no more interested in ‘helping’ the vulnerable than any Tory. They are interested in driving the weak further into poverty.

If we ‘really’ want to help these people back into work we need to ban employers from interrogating people on their health history and stop employers simply sacking people merely for being ‘unfit’. We should set up quotas for each decent sized employer in the Country to take those deemed ‘fit for work’ but are currently on IB.

We would soon find out the true figures of those ‘fit to work’.

The Sick and Disabled are now victims of abuse and it is about time Ed Miliband and The Labour Party started giving them some form of support and demonstrate that there is some decency somewhere within politic’s.

After all David Cameron promised during the 2010 Electoral Campaign that if you was Sick, Disabled, Old, Frail or Poor you would have nothing to fear if he Governed The United Kingdom but that turned out to be complete and total Lie’s and now that group of Vulnerable people are the hardest hit with these Cutbacks.

hhtp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UvqmZlaAPY

These people have been Lied to, Persecuted, Discrimated Against, Bullied, Victimised and now subjected to continious Abuse. This situation needs to stop because David Cameron and Ian Ducan Smith and others have been proved liars by their exaggerated claims and deliberate mis-information on this issue.

This entire matter is a Diabolical Disgrace and Despicable beyond belief. Do we really live in a Civilised Society anymore.

6. So Much For Subtlety

3. Jim – “The term ‘helped back into work’ is a neat euphemism for ‘placed into forced labour’.”

No it isn’t. Go away and read Primo Levi until you’re ready to apologise.

“If we ‘really’ want to help these people back into work we need to ban employers from interrogating people on their health history and stop employers simply sacking people merely for being ‘unfit’. We should set up quotas for each decent sized employer in the Country to take those deemed ‘fit for work’ but are currently on IB.”

Actually if we want to help those people back into work we need to make as much of their medical history public as possible. If employers get a hint at a gap in people’s work history, and they do not know what caused it, they will assume the worst and refuse to hire.

“We would soon find out the true figures of those ‘fit to work’.”

Indeed. Or we could abolish benefits for the ill altogether. In a few weeks they would all be in work or withdraw from the work force.

@6 What happens after they ‘withdraw from the workforce’? Do they get their benefits reinstated?

I’m classed as unfit, but hell you tell me.

I fell from the roof of a building hitting some pipes on the way down, the HSE stated I hit the ground at 87mph, it was so fast all I can remember was the actually going over the roof and then sitting on the floor looking at my legs thinking oh god look at that piece of wood sticking out of my leg, it was of course my upper leg bone, I grabbed it to try and pull it out before I passed out.

I have been Left with two severely damaged legs, I have had three disc removed from my spine, at the time of the accident I had a broken nose, broken eye socket, lost all my teeth because I had broken my jaw in three pieces.

I also had fracture of ribs, legs, arms and hands, I had compression fractures of my spinal cord including L5 and also three disc in my neck.

I spent eighteen months in hospital for years after I would wake up screaming after dreaming of my legs and the bone sticking out and me grabbing it.

The rests of all this, Pain never ending pain, lost of function of my bowel and bladder, I have to manually empty my bowel using a finger, and I stick a tube into my bladder through my penis, and yes it bloody hurts.

yet I would be told since i was one of the people the government used to test the new system, that I’m able to work, because I can use my hands to move my wheelchair. Under labour not the Tories the new WCA was put in place, it’s no good telling people the nasty Tories, under labour a young soldier without legs had his benefits stopped for daring to try walking.

But I will be told I can work, I will appeal and I have a very good chance of winning the appeal, because you can see my injuries, I have a six inch scare on my back and I have scars on my legs from my hips to my knee’s.

I have an implanted morphine pump, this means I cannot alter the dose and it goes direct into my spine so does not affect my body no addiction then.

So you will say whats all this to do with this.

On my last four visits to my Job Center these are the jobs I was informed to go for.

Long distance lorry driver needing HGV1 I have a limited driving license I cannot drive taxi’s Buses or HGV vehicles.

They told me try you never know.

Window cleaning the job stated must be fit able to climb ladders.

Labouring on a building site.

Now these are the jobs on offer to me, and I’m not kidding you, they expect me to do what i did before i was disabled, and they say to me go on give it ago, come back next month.

But of course if I’m disabled and in the group with help, I will only get this for two years before going onto JSA. I now get £138.00 a week if I go to JSA I will get nothing because I have £25,000 in the bank from my accident compensation.

I’m told I will have to live on this for five years…. good is it not

9. Cynical/Realist?

Could the people who feel the new system is even approaching fair please read the comment 8 @ Fred.

I have experience of this system myself (experience of friends/family), and I can confirm this is not an unusual case.

It’s quite disturbing to watch someone close to you break down in tears because they are so sh!t scared that if they won’t work they will lose their benefits but they can’t see anyway of working that won’t even further agrivate their health problems leading to ever more pain.

I’ve sat with someone with a copy of their medical for ESA.

As an example, one question was ‘Can you carry a box upstairs?’

Person’s answer was, ‘it depends on the box, I can’t carry my washing or hoover upstairs, some days I can barely get myself up the stairs. On a very good day I may be able to carry a small box like a shoe box upstairs if its light, but most days I need both hands just to stay steady and not fall’.

The answer the ESA medical examiner wrote down?

‘Person is able to carry a box upstairs’.

Each and every question had a similar story. The irony is people get so irate about ‘scroungers’ and ‘dole-scum’. Yet a scrounger would have known full well what to say. ‘A box? Upstairs? No way.’ An honest person gave an honest answer and had it completly misrepresented. You go figure how this is a fair way of testing people’s ability to work.

10. Cynical/Realist?

Also, the Express front page you quote above was one of the most hideous misrepresentations of statistics I’ve seen. It used the ESA assesment stats in a way so skewed its unreal how they got away with it.

Two ministers involved in welfare, including Chris Grayling, allowed comments to be used which essentially backed up this misrepresentation.

Labour were going the same direction too.

SMFS @ 6

No it isn’t. Go away and read Primo Levi until you’re ready to apologise.

The day I feel ready to apologise for having the audicity to point out the truth regarding the the Tory vermin, they can screw the lid on the pine box my corpse is lying in.

If employers get a hint at a gap in people’s work history, and they do not know what caused it, they will assume the worst and refuse to hire.

Ah, but, the problem is that if these people are passed as ‘fit for work’ then there is no need for any employer to know anything about the medical history, is there? If an employer STILL refuses to employ such a person, they should be able to be sued for discrimination.

Indeed. Or we could abolish benefits for the ill altogether. In a few weeks they would all be in work or withdraw from the work force.

Would they really? Another cluessless Tory spouting crap, eh?

Fred @ 8, CynicalRealist @ 9

Your stories are typical of the type of thing I read/hear too often, yet they never make it to the mainstream press and NEVER make it to front line politics. It appears that the Tory vermin (and I use the term advisedly) are all too willing to promulgate the ‘scrounging myth’, no-one should be surprised that the Hitler supporting Mail are keen to pile onto the weakest members of society, but what about decent people and the newspapers/TV stations, bloggs that appeal to the humans in our society? Are we really that scared to put our heads over the parapet to aid our fellow human? Are we, as a Nation, simply not willing to stand up for people who have no effective advocacy? Are we all too willing to campaign for, say, affluent glamorous gay people to get blessed in church, yet people shitting down a tube is ‘too difficult’ to get a rally going?

Perhaps that is why Camron’s ‘Big Society’ is doomed to failure (or success, depending on how cynical you are). It is not that people are not willing to volunteer, but rather that people are not willing to volunteer for the ‘icky’ stuff? No-one appears to stand up and say, ‘Hey, the Government are attacking people who cannot fight back’ and lend voice?

If we cannot mobilise a campaign to defend the ‘Fred @ 8’ then what the fuck is being ‘Left Wing’ all about?

A recent survey of employers by Group Risk Development found that only 8% of employers would be willing to hire a former Incapacity Benefit claimant.

These kinds of findings, coupled with the failure of Pathways to Work and of welfare-to-work providers across the board, makes a mockey of anyone’s claim that these reforms will result in claimants and former claimants finding jobs.

This is all about shuffling people from one income-replacement benefit to another. Those who have created these reforms (Labour and Tory alike) and those who support them should have the honesty and sense to simply admit that.

Seamus

Basically the Sick and Disabled have been thrown to the Dogs like a piece of Rotten Meat. What hope do they have left.

15. disabledbabe

Leave aside the ‘fit for work’ issue for one moment. The more interesting issue is the percentage of people who have been placed in the support group and are therefor ‘unfit for work’. Labour estimated this would be 6% of people claiming ESA. The Coalition estimated 8%. Instead it’s a massive 31.3% and that’s with the discredited wca administed by the equally discredited Atos. Now that wasn’t what was supposed to happen.

16. So Much For Subtlety

11. Jim – “The day I feel ready to apologise for having the audicity to point out the truth regarding the the Tory vermin, they can screw the lid on the pine box my corpse is lying in.”

I am sorry to hear you lack the capacity to see what you did wrong.

“Ah, but, the problem is that if these people are passed as ‘fit for work’ then there is no need for any employer to know anything about the medical history, is there? If an employer STILL refuses to employ such a person, they should be able to be sued for discrimination.”

Well no. People can be fit for work and still be total psychopaths for instance. Try to work for the government these days. Last time I saw their forms, they asked about five pages of questions relating to your medical history, four pages of which referred to psychiatric treatments. Employers want to know if someone is going to be disruptive or otherwise a problem.

But even if you were right, employers are going to think some medical conditions have a cost associated with them because, obviously, they do. If you deny them the right to talk over what medical problems a candidate has, they will assume the worst. No one these days is dumb enough to open say they are not hiring because someone has been sick, but they still won’t hire. I have had this conversation with someone who sat on a lot of committees for government jobs and we were talking about the “Have you ever been convicted” box. He said he wouldn’t even bother to short list anyone who ticked yes. There was no need to ask him what he did for the people who ticked “Have you been under psychiatric supervision”. You can sue all you like. They will just produce paper work saying you were rejected for other reasons. The entire system could have been created to make most of us dishonest liars and still, as long as there are Poles who can be hired, won’t get a single disabled person into the workforce.

“Would they really? Another cluessless Tory spouting crap, eh?”

Yes they would.

17. So Much For Subtlety

14. Mr Tomne – “Basically the Sick and Disabled have been thrown to the Dogs like a piece of Rotten Meat. What hope do they have left.”

How is helping people to have a normal and productive life where they can support themselves without begging for charity from the rest of us, a life with some dignity and respect, remotely like being thrown to the dogs?

So Much for Subtlety

Many Sick and Disabled people that are clearly unfit and unable to work are being forced to have a Medical Assessment Test by unqualified people that are not Doctors specialized in a number of area’s to undertake such tests. The objective is financially motivated by payment to pass sick and disabled people fit for work.

There is a lot of evidence coming to light that proves that these Tests are unfair and people are winning Appeals to overturn the Wrongful Decision’s made by these Robots carrying out The Medical Assessment Tests.

I also believe that it is important to help people into back work but only in a way that is fair and The Patients and Their Doctors are listened to and have a say.

SMFS @ 16

The thrust of your argument is that even if some panel or other passes someone as ‘fit’ for work does not actually make them ‘fit for work’ if that said condition renders them de-facto unfit for the labour market, does it? All the panels and instructions etc will count for nothing unless you can get an employee to take them on. Given that the labour force is pretty well saturated with fit healthy people, it is pretty cruel to drive someone with long-term illnesses onto the labour market with the words ‘Do not touch this person with a bargepole’ stapled on their heads, does it? Given that you have said there are costs involved (or at least potentially) in taking on someone with a long list of barriers to work, this strategy is hardly going to be a rip-roaring success, is it? Funny that, because that is exactly what we have been saying for years.

The only way you can really deal with this dilemma is to examine the labour market. If no-one will employ people with certain illnesses, then there is little point in declaring the ‘fit’ is there? The best way to test the market is simply to force employers to take on people passed ‘fit’ and see how that flies. Pass a law forcing large employers to take on these people. If people like Tesco object then we can be reasonably sure that the majority of the people they receive are ‘unfit for work’ and THAT should be the final arbiter of fitness to work, shouldn’t it?

This is why I despise the Tory scum and New Labour to an extent. They bang on and on about market forces etc, but when it suits them, they feel able to bypass it all for the sheer joy of kicking a disabled person in the stones.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  2. cheesley

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  3. Romila Chaplin

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  4. Bored London Gurl

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  5. fizz

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  6. Big Ste

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  7. Jane Phillips

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  8. mark wright

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  9. Stephen Lintott

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  10. yorkierosie

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  11. Sue Bristow

    How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/uHu9ssX via @libcon

  12. sunny hundal

    How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  13. Frieda_M

    RT @sunny_hundal: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  14. Richard Bradley

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  15. Broken OfBritain

    RT @sunny_hundal: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5. –#ProjV #TBofB

  16. Lisa Ellwood

    RT @sunny_hundal: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5. –#ProjV #TBofB

  17. Rhydian Fôn James

    RT @IconicImagery: RT @sunny_hundal: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5. — …

  18. Paul Wood

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  19. Kelvin John Edge

    RT @BrokenOfBritain: RT @sunny_hundal: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5. …

  20. How Many Disabled People Are Really Fit For Work? « Same Difference

    […] as many as ministers claim, says this great post at Liberal Conspiracy. We know it’s right, of […]

  21. Nick H.

    RT @BrokenOfBritain: RT @sunny_hundal: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5. …

  22. Nick H.

    RT @sunny_hundal: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  23. Chris Salter

    How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim | Liberal Conspiracy http://tinyurl.com/6kydxa6 #ppnuk

  24. Pickled Politics » The benefits system and ‘fitness to work’

    […] complexity of the system means that there are frequent misunderstandings about what is involved, especially with regards the newish sickness benefit, ESA. What system there should be for those on sickness benefits is a […]

  25. Selene...

    RT @BrokenOfBritain: RT @sunny_hundal: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5. …

  26. Kate Hillier

    RT @libcon: How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim http://bit.ly/eMKPF5

  27. esg. Holdings Ltd

    How many people who live with a disability are really fit for work? http://bit.ly/gegdSH

  28. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/AaLxZMP via @libcon

  29. links for 2011-02-17 « Embololalia

    […] How many disabled people are fit for work? Not as much as ministers claim | Liberal Conspiracy But the people in the work-related activity group aren’t fit to work, if they were they would have been found fit to work. Instead, they’ve been put in a group of people who are going to be helped to get back to work, but who don’t have to apply or look for jobs (which is what the benefits system requires of out-of-work non-disabled people). (tags: ability uk welfare esa dla) […]

  30. Introduction | Welfare Justice

    […] called Atos and result in the claimed figure of 29.6% of applicants being found fit for work. (See Liberal Conspiracy‘s assessment for an accurate figure). Of those found “fit for work” and appeal […]





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