11. May, 2018

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#ESA #WCA: Tens of thousands of “fitness for work” benefit claims could have been decided by civil servants on evidence from assessment reports that should have been rejected because their quality was “unacceptable”, government figures suggest. The concerns about the way Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision-makers have decided employment and support allowance (ESA) claims follow last week’s revelations about similar concerns with personal independence payment (PIP) claims.

They are based on figures provided by the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton (pictured), to Labour MP Grahame Morris.

The figures* show that the proportion of work capability assessment (WCA) reports sent back to DWP contractor Maximus** because they were found to be of “unacceptable” quality – following audits of small samples of the reports – was as much as 100 times greater than the proportion sent back by DWP decision-makers when making day-to-day decisions on ESA claims.

This suggests that DWP decision-makers are frequently deciding ESA claims based on “unacceptable” reports instead of sending them back to Maximus assessors to “rework” . . . Anita Bellows, a Disabled People Against Cuts researcher, said DWP again needed to explain the discrepancies in its statistics.

She said: “While the figures for reports deemed unacceptable and therefore needing ‘rework’ provided by disability assessors are low, the reports audited paint a different picture, one of disability assessors producing a huge number of unacceptable reports.

“But the discrepancies show something else. Statistics on the number of unacceptable reports are being manipulated and kept artificially low.

“It is unthinkable that the DWP did not notice these discrepancies. And this begs the question: how many claimants had their claim decided based on unacceptable reports?”