A third (32%) of all new claimants for employment and support allowance (ESA) were assessed as being fit to work and capable of employment between October 2008 and March 2013 - totalling 980,400 people, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.We've now had five years of reporting the numbers of people turned down for ESA as some kind of success story; they're getting disabled people back into work. A third of those who claimed ESA are being found fit to work. Welfare Reform is justified!
Those turned down for Employment and Support Allowance are not necessarily making false claims. They may be fit to work but have not understood the rules, or they may be unable to work but have struggled to fill in the form in such a way that conveys this. Some of those turned down may have had a good case for appeal (40% of appeals are successful), but couldn't face the ordeal. The fact that this complex and mixed group number a million people (or strictly speaking, a million claims) seems unremarkable.
The criteria for Employment and Support Allowance are much stricter than those of Incapacity Benefit, the process takes many more months, with many people either dying, getting better or giving up before a decision is made and some claimants' benefit is stopped after the first year if they have savings or a working partner. Despite this, there were still 2.49 million people on ESA and other incapacity-type benefits in 2013, against the 2.6 million on incapacity benefits in 2008.
Reform to this benefit, at massive cost to government, a very great deal of personal stress, heartache and hardship for disabled people and their families, as well as a media-driven regression in social attitudes towards disabled people, has only succeeded in reducing the numbers on this kind of benefit by 110,000 people or a little over 4%.
This is what has been achieved since October 2008; there are a little over four percent fewer people on ESA and related benefits than before. It is unclear whether or not the incapacity bill - either in terms of benefits or the cost of assessing for and administering benefits - has been reduced. A stable 40% of appeals against ESA decisions are successful. Fraud levels (around 0.3% for incapacity benefits) remain stable.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of those found "fit to work" will have simply moved onto other kinds of benefits such as Job Seeker's Allowance. Disabled people who are fit to work remain unlikely to actually get work, largely due to discrimination.