Hundreds on sick benefit in Barking and Dagenham ‘fit to work’

Hundreds of people on incapacity benefits (IB) have been judged fit to work – but a charity fears many are not well enough and should not be forced into a job.

Of 1,780 residents in Barking and Dagenham claiming IB who were assessed by the government, 560, or 31 per cent, were deemed capable of working – one of the highest percentages in London.

The Department for Work and Pensions replaced IB with a new benefit, the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), in 2008 and has been reassessing claimants to see if they are eligible under the new system.

But Barking and Dagenham disability charity DABD (uk), which says it is helping many “distressed” claimants, has expressed doubts over the validity of the reassessments.

“We are concerned that a significant number of the 31 per cent of people found fit for work are in fact still unable to work and will now be in a worse situation, unable to claim either ESA or job seekers’ allowance,” he said.

“I know quite a few people have appealed the decision and won, which shows that the reassessments are getting it wrong.”

The charity’s views were echoed by people on social networking sites. Lisa from Creekmouth posted on “I am seriously disabled. Am in agony when I sit, can barely walk, need daily care and guess what? ...according to Atos [who carry out the assessments] I am fully fit for work.” She said she appealed the decision and won.

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Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas said the ESA system was “not getting it right and needs reform”.

He added: “We are coming across scores of people who have failed the test – often with debilitating conditions, or even life-threatening conditions, mental health problems or a variety of other ailments who literally cannot work.”

Employment minister, Mark Hoban, said: “By continuing to refine the system to make it fairer and more accurate we can ensure that people who are able to work get the encouragement they need to get a job, while those who are too sick to work get real support.”