Press release

Nearly one in three people on incapacity benefits capable of work

Nearly a third of people on the old incapacity benefits have been found to be capable of some form of work since reassessment began.

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


Nearly a third of people on the old incapacity benefits have been found to be capable of some form of work since reassessment began, figures published today show.

Over 603,000 people on incapacity benefits have been reassessed since 2010 with nearly one in every three - almost 180,000 people - now no longer eligible for sickness benefits. They will now get long term help from Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme to find a job which is right for them.

Just over two thirds of people who were claiming the old incapacity benefits are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance, with 27% put in the support group where they get unconditional support as they are too ill or disabled to work.

A further 41% 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 when they are able.

The Department is now more than half way through the reassessment of 1.5m incapacity benefits claimants through the Work Capability Assessment, although today’s figures only show the outcome of those cases up to May 2012.

Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, said:

Now we are over half way through the reassessment process it is clear that the old system condemned tens of thousands of people to a life on benefits with little help to move back to work.

Now people who can work will be given help to find a job, while those who need unconditional support will get it.

Getting the Work Capability Assessment right first time is my absolute priority and we have made considerable improvements to the process to ensure it is as fair and accurate as possible.

Outcomes of initial assessments (adjusted to account for outcomes after appeals) for incapacity benefits claimants referred for reassessment between October 2010 and May 2012 show:

  • 68 per cent of claimants were entitled to the benefit. Within this
  • 41 per cent of claimants were placed in the Work Related Activity Group
  • 27 per cent of claimants were placed in the Support Group
  • 32 per cent of claimants were assessed as Fit for Work and are not entitled to ESA.

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.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The reassessment of around 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:
  3. Old incapacity benefits are: Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance and Income Support paid on grounds of incapacity.

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Published 29 January 2013