Richard Lochhead

Moray SNP News



SNP MPs have highlighted the difficulties faced by people living with and surviving cancer when it comes to applying for benefits in a parliamentary debate on the Government’s controversial Work Capability Assessments (WCA).

Claimants of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) – which provides financial assistance to people with a serious health condition or disability that prevents them from working – are required to undergo a WCA in order for the DWP to determine if they qualify for the benefit or if they are deemed ‘fit for work’ and no longer eligible for support.

The way the Work Capability Assessment is being operated has been roundly condemned by the SNP and welfare campaigners.  SNP MPs are calling for the system to be scrapped completely due to the hardship and distress caused to sick and disabled people by protracted delays and poor decision making.

Commenting on the ongoing and fundamental issues surrounding Work Capability Assessments Angus Robertson MP said:

“A huge number of decisions against ESA claims have been overturned on appeal as a result of flawed assessments, leaving legitimate claimants without critical welfare support at a crisis point in their life.

“As an example, when it comes to cancer sufferers survival rates for people are improving, but the welfare system must recognise that ’not dying’ is not the same as ‘being well’. While the terminally ill and people undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy are exempt from these often degrading and cruel assessments, six months after treatment has ended they are back to having to jump through hoops to get support.

“Around half a million people across the UK face poor health and disability after treatment, experiencing a wide range of distressing long-term physical and emotional problems such as depression, incontinence, crippling fatigue, PTSD, and moderate to severe pain. These problems may only emerge some months after treatment and can persist for at least 10 years.

“We have a crazy situation where an audit of the DWP showed that the cost of the tests is greater than any reduction in welfare costs.

“There are recurring problems with getting appropriate medical background information about claimants' conditions, ensuring that people are placed in the right category, and the accuracy of the assessments themselves. Our social security system should support people towards work, but it should also be a safety net that affords dignity to those who are not fit for work - not just those who will never return to work, but also those with long term conditions, and those who need time to recover from serious illness or injury.

"Our welfare system has to have fairness at its heart and quite simply the Work Capability Assessment is unfair. The UK Government must end this failing system and give the support and respect that claimants deserve at a difficult time in their lives."