Press release

More than a third of people on incapacity benefit capable of work

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

More than a third of people going through incapacity benefit reassessment have been found to be capable of some form of work.

More than a third of people going through incapacity benefit reassessment have been found to be capable of some form of work, new figures published today show.

Of the 139,200 people reassessed between December 2011 and February 2012, 36% were found fit for work and will get help to move into employment through Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme.

Just under two thirds of people who were claiming the old incapacity benefit are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance, with 25% put in the support group where they get unconditional support as they are too ill or disabled to work. A further 39% were put in the Work Related Activity Group, meaning they are currently too ill or disabled to work and entitled to the benefit, but will be expected to take steps towards an eventual return to work.

Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, said:

The old incapacity benefit system condemned too many people to a life on benefits without any hope of ever going back to work. This was simply wrong. By reassessing everyone for ESA we can help thousands of people move from benefits and back into work if they are capable while giving unconditional support to those who need it.

I am under no illusion, however, that many face a difficult journey back into employment and we know this may take time. But for those who aspire to a life off benefits, the intensive support should be available through Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme to give them the best chance of finding a job.

The Work Programme is designed to help people like those who are reassessed and found fit for work. It offers longer term support over two years for people who are furthest away from the jobs market and who need the most help to eventually move into work.

Outcomes of initial assessments (adjusted to account for outcomes after appeals) for incapacity benefits claimants referred for reassessment between December 2011 and February 2012 show:

  • 36 per cent of claimants were assessed as Fit for Work and are not entitled to ESA.
  • **64 per cent of claimants were entitled to the benefit.  Within this - **
  • 39 per cent of claimants were placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), and
  • 25 per cent of claimants were placed in the Support Group

It is estimated that a total of 1.5 million people will undergo reassessment by 2014. The process is now over halfway through and is on schedule.

Billy Mathers, 30, from Ormskirk, Lancashire had been on incapacity benefit for 11 years with severe depression. He was reassessed and found fit for work. He took part in a work experience placement in a local shop where his enthusiasm and dedication impressed the store manager so much that she offered Billy a permanent job at the store.

Billy said:

At first I was worried that I was found fit for work; I was afraid of the change. I had never had a job, I had nothing on my CV to show potential employers and I knew I would struggle to compete with other jobseekers. But I saw being found fit for work as an opportunity to change my lifestyle and support my family.

Work experience is the best thing I ever did; it led to a job and changed my life for the better. Getting up and going to work in the morning gives me a real sense of purpose, and the best thing is my family are all proud of me.

Notes to editors:

  1. The reassessment of 1.5 million existing incapacity benefits claimants commenced on 11 October 2010 with a trial in the Burnley and Aberdeen areas.  At the end of February 2011, Jobcentre Plus started a limited introductory phase. Full national reassessment process began in 4 April 2011. The process is expected to take three years to complete.
  2. Quarterly statistics ‘Employment and Support Allowance - Incapacity Benefits Reassessments: Outcomes of Work Capability Assessments, Great Britain’ is available here: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/workingage/index.php?page=esa_ibr
  3. Professor Harrington has completed the first two reviews of the WCA and is currently working on the third. The Government has accepted in principle all of Professor Harrington’s recommendations and is committed to ensuring the process is as fair and accurate as possible.

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