Monday, 4 April 2011

Birmingham's 40,000 benefit claimants to be reassessed for work

by Catherine Lillington, Birmingham Post

More than 40,000 people receiving incapacity benefit in Birmingham are set to be reassessed to see if they can work.

The Birmingham Disability Resource Centre (BDRC) has criticised the move as a “crude” attempt to save cash and warned that it could end up costing the Government more money.

But Employment Minister Chris Grayling said the assessments were “the start of a revolution” and not about forcing the sick back to work.

Mr Grayling said that as part of this process the Department for Work and Pensions will be re-examining about 41,000 cases in the city. A total of 1.6 million claimants will be reassessed across the UK.

Pete Millington, of the Yardley-based BDRC, said: “One of our concerns is that, like a lot of changes going on at the moment, they are based around saving money and cuts as opposed to being based on a well-researched analysis of why people are on incapacity benefit.

“We’re not suggesting thousands of people should languish on benefits their entire lives but what we would say is those people require a lot of support.

“I guess what we are predicting would be thousands will be assessed and deemed fit for work on a crude capability basis but many will appeal, go to tribunal and end up costing more than the Government is hoping to save.

“It’s about capacity to maintain a job and survive a workplace as opposed to capability.”

In a bid to reassure claimants Mr Grayling said: “I cannot stress strongly enough that this is not about forcing people back to work if they are genuinely unable to do so.

“Nor are we tied into specific financial targets about the number of people we need to get back to work.

“This is about finding out who we can help. Perhaps to do something different to what they did previously, but still to do something more with their lives.

“We will provide unconditional support to those whose health means they cannot possibly work.

“But we will put real effort into trying to help the others find a better role in life.

“And we will continue to make determined efforts to ensure that we, and the system we have put in place, treats people fairly, properly and appropriately.”

Hear me, Pete Millington, interviewed live on BBC Radio WM at lunchtime today at 12 o clock

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