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Dossier targets ‘flawed’ benefit allowance


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By Helen McArdle Herald scotland


Opposition: Susan McPhee says the ESA is not working.27 Oct 2010

Every MP and MSP is today being sent a dossier highlighting the impact on their own constituents of a “nightmare” benefit intended to get sick and disabled people back to work.

The campaign by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) marks the second anniversary of the introduction of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which replaced incapacity benefit on October 27, 2008.

CAS argues that instead of improving the lives of ill and disabled people, the “deeply flawed” benefit has brought misery for thousands of Scots.

It has been applied to all new sick and disabled claimants since that date, but from January 2011 ESA will be extended to all incapacity benefit claimants, meaning some 350,000 Scots will be assessed for the new allowance.

In last week’s spending review Chancellor George Osborne announced that people will only be allowed to claim ESA for a maximum of a year.

CAS acting chief executive Susan McPhee said: “We said last year that ESA was unfit for purpose and we see no reason to change that view.

“We are still seeing case after case across Scotland where people are being found fit for work even though their illness or disability restricts them from any type of work.

“ESA isn’t working for the most vulnerable.

“We need to protect people in times of suffering, not cause them further hardship.”

From today, every MP and MSP in Scotland will receive the personalised “nightmare dossier” from CAS.

It argues that ESA has forced thousands of extremely vulnerable claimants with conditions such as cancer, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease back into employment after being declared fit for work despite medical evidence from GPs suggesting otherwise.

The dossier being sent to First Minister Alex Salmond, whose Gordon constituency in Aberdeenshire is currently monitoring a pilot of blanket ESA introduction, details the cases of a number of constituents, including one man who was ruled out of ESA benefit because the medical assessor declared that he was fit enough to go to work.

When he attempted to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, he was told by the same job centre that he was unfit to work and therefore not entitled to that either.

The Department for Work and Pensions said in a statement: “It cannot be right to leave people trapped on benefits.

“That’s why we will assess everyone on incapacity benefit to see whether, with the right help and support, they could get back into work.”

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