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DWP: 36% of incapacity benefit claimants fit for work

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DWP: 36% of incapacity benefit claimants fit for work

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Communities, Finance

DWP: 36% of incapacity benefit claimants fit for work DWP: 36% of incapacity benefit claimants fit for work

Over a third of those currently claiming incapacity benefit have been reassessed as fit for some form of work, the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) has announced.

So far, 139,200 have been reassessed by Atos, the private French firm brought in by the Government to administer the medical side of the 'fit for work' tests.

Of those tested, 25% were found to be currently too ill or disabled to work and were deemed entitled to the benefit, whilst 39% were put in the Work Related Activity Group, meaning they are currently too ill or disabled to work and entitled to the benefit, but are expected to take steps towards an eventual return to work.

Atos's medical investigations and recommendations are passed to the DWP which makes the final decision regarding the rewarding of benefits.

Atos has been severely criticised for apparently passing people with severe medical conditions 'fit for work'. In one case, a man died of a heart attack shortly after being reassessed as 'fit', whilst last week a teenager wrote a letter blaming Atos for the death of his disabled father.

Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, said: "The old incapacity benefit system condemned too many people to a life on benefits without any hope of ever going back to work. This was simply wrong. By reassessing everyone for ESA we can help thousands of people move from benefits and back into work if they are capable while giving unconditional support to those who need it.

"I am under no illusion, however, that many face a difficult journey back into employment and we know this may take time. But for those who aspire to a life off benefits, the intensive support should be available through Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme to give them the best chance of finding a job."

In support of its intentions to help people, the DWP has published the case of one those reassessed as capable of working. Billy Mathers, 30, from Ormskirk, Lancashire had been on incapacity benefit for 11 years with severe depression. After his reassessment, he took part in a work experience placement in a local shop where his enthusiasm and dedication impressed the store manager so much that she offered Billy a permanent job at the store.

Billy said: "At first I was worried that I was found fit for work; I was afraid of the change. I had never had a job, I had nothing on my CV to show potential employers and I knew I would struggle to compete with other jobseekers. But I saw being found fit for work as an opportunity to change my lifestyle and support my family.

"Work experience is the best thing I ever did; it led to a job and changed my life for the better. Getting up and going to work in the morning gives me a real sense of purpose, and the best thing is my family are all proud of me."

The DWP estimates that 1.5 million people will undergo reassessment by 2014.

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