3 February 2010

Man getting bad news on telephoneAs more statistics emerge about the work capability assessment (WCA) for ESA, the picture is becoming increasingly grim for claimants.

The latest figures released by the DWP, relating to claimants who actually had a medical assessment for employment and support allowance (ESA), show that 68% were found fit for work.  23% were placed in the work-related activity group and just 9% were placed in the support group.

Appeal results are no more encouraging.  Tribunals had made decisions in 8,800 cases by November 2009.  Of these, the DWP have won in 62% of cases.  However, this figure represents just 26% of 34,500 appeals that have been lodged relating to claims for ESA made between Oct 2008 and December 2008. This has two possible implications. 

The first is that 26% of appeals may still not be a representative sample, especially if many of these were paper hearings, which the statistics don’t tell us.

The second implication is that the Tribunals Service may be going to collapse under the ever increasing backlog of unheard appeals.

Over 16,000 appeals were lodged in relation to November 2008 WCA decisions and over 14,000 in relation to December 2008 WCA decisions.  With medicals being carried out at a rate of around 33,000 to 35,000 a month, this suggests that as many as 60% of those claimants found fit for work may lodge an appeal against the decision.

If this trend continues, we may soon be at a point where appeals are taking over a year to be heard and the number of people trapped in the assessment phase of ESA will become a huge political embarrassment.

How long, after that happens, before politicians begin to suggest that the appeals system is unfit for purpose and that we should switch to decision making by ‘independent adjudicators’ appointed by the DWP, who make decisions based solely on the papers and without the need for a hearing in person? 

Such a system already exists for social fund appeals and it is the kind of swift, cheap ‘justice’ which will be hugely attractive to an increasingly claimant hostile administration – whoever wins the next election.

You can download the latest WCA statistics here


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