Thousands of people with serious degenerative conditions claiming Employment Support Allowance are being classified as “fit to work in future” according to a report in the Independent.

A Freedom of Information request by a coalition of charities found that around 8,000 people with conditions such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Cystic Fibrosis have been classified this way, meaning that instead of being placed in the support group and receiving the full benefit unconditionally, they have been placed in the work Related Activity Group, in which they must attend regular interviews with an adviser to help with job goals and improving skills.  Failure to undertake work-related activity could lead to sanctions and loss of benefit.  Of the 8,000 identified:  “5,000 were put into the category despite assessors explicitly recognising on reports that their prospect of working is “unlikely in the longer term”.”

Those placed in this group receive less money and their contributions-based ESA is time-limited to one year.  They also face reassessments, leading to stress, anxiety and often a worsening of their condition.

The DWP claim that people are placed in this group so that “no one is written off”,  however, this has been challenged by campaigners.  A National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society spokesperson said:

“To continue to regularly reassess claimants with progressive conditions, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, is absurd and unnecessary. We know that most people with Rheumatoid Arthritis want to work for as long as they possibly can and will only claim ESA as a last resort.”

Charities supporting those with degenerative conditions are calling for those who have been assessed as  unlikely to work in the longer-term to be automatically placed in the Support Group.

Source: The Independent