MP welcomes the benefits U-turn

Reporter: Gillian Potts
Date published: 05 October 2016

OLDHAM East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams has given a cautious welcome to the government's U-turn on repeatedly assessing the long-term sick for benefits.

After Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green, announced the end of the work capability assessment for recipients of Employment and Support Allowance, the shadow work and pensions secretary said "the devil will be in the detail" and the whole assessment system needs a more "person-centred approach".

Up to now ESA - worth up to £109 a week - applicants faced a work capability assessment to qualify and are then re-tested to ensure their condition has not changed, some as often as three months and others every couple of years.

Under the new changes those who are deemed unfit for work and with conditions - such as congenital heart conditions - that will not improve will no longer face re-testing.

Mrs Abrahams said: "This government U-turn follows my announcement that Labour would scrap the work capability assessment at our conference last week.

"It is deeply worrying that the government did not see sense earlier as they have been warned for years about the effect their WCA was having on the most ill and vulnerable claimants.

"I, and many other MPs, have heard from thousands of constituents who have faced anxiety and worry going through this dehumanising process.

"As ever with this government, though, the devil will be in the detail.

"Anything short of a fundamental shift to a more holistic, person-centred approach will leave too many disabled people trapped in a flawed, frustrating and inefficient system; one where 60 per cent of assessment decisions are overturned on appeal.

"We will continue to hold the Tories to account to get the best possible assessment for disabled people.

"Labour will overhaul the social security system and introduce a holistic, person-centred approach, not the dehumanising, harmful, inefficient process we have now."

The new criteria for ESA is yet to be established.

The main criticism of the assessment came from those with fluctuating conditions such as mental health and MS.

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