Press release

Removing the sickness benefit trap

The latest figures show that 57 per cent of people who go through the Work Capability Assessment are found fit for some form of work.

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


The latest figures show that 57 per cent of people who go through the Work Capability Assessment are found fit for some form of work.

The official statistics published today also show that, for the latest period 21 per cent can do some work with the right help and support and a further 22 per cent of people will go directly into the Support Group, receiving unconditional financial support. 

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said:

These reforms are changing the landscape of our country. By concentrating on what people can do, we will help people back into work and out of the trap of benefits that has blighted communities. We want to help everyone who can be in work to get there, not just for themselves but for their children.

It is clear that the majority of new claimants to sickness benefits are in fact able to do some work. For those that need additional help our new Work Programme is up and running and will tailor support to people’s needs so that they can overcome whatever barriers they face.

The number of working age people on ESA and incapacity benefits at May 2011 is the lowest since 1996 but there are still 2.60 million people claiming, 916,970 of which have been on Incapacity Benefit for over a decade.

For new ESA claims

Outcomes of initial assessments for claims started from March to May 2011 show:

  • 48 per cent of claimants have an outcome i.e. decisions have been made on their claims;
  • 38 per cent of claimants had their claim closed before having a face to face assessment; and
  • 14 per cent of claimants were still undergoing assessment.

Claimants with an outcome for their claim can be broken down as follows:

  • 43 per cent of claimants were entitled to the benefit.  Within this -
  • 21 per cent of claimants were placed in the Work Related Activity Group; and
  • 22 per cent of claimants were placed in the Support Group; and
  • 57 per cent of claimants were assessed as Fit for Work and are no longer eligible for Employment and Support Allowance.

The reduction in the Incapacity Benefit caseload is a result of the reassessment process which sees people on Incapacity Benefit assessed using the Work Capability Assessment to determine eligibility to Employment and Support Allowance.  A quarter of the 1.5 million Incapacity Benefit claimants going through re-assessment have begun the process.

Note to Editors:

Latest official statistics

Official statistics on new claims for Employment and Support Allowance are available at:

Published 25 January 2012