THE BLOG

Legal aid reveals government test for incapacity benefit is inaccurate

29/07/2011 15:01 | Updated 27 September 2011

There has been a lot of recent national press coverage about the government findings showing that a large proportion of people who applied for Employment & Support Allowance were actually found to be capable of doing some form of work. The precise figures vary depending on which media reports you read.

However, whilst these figures are natural headline grabbers, the truth is many groups and government welfare staff, including the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) believe these figures are inaccurate and controversial, claiming the company overseeing the tests, ATOS, is incorrectly finding people fit for work when they are not.

For example, Giuseppina Salamone, a welfare rights adviser from Brighton and Hove Unemployed Workers Centre, believes the ATOS test is a 'merciless electronic assessment' that is 'unfair' where 'blind and deaf people, and those to ill to stand up could lose their sickness benefit'. She also states how the mental health assessment is similarly merciless

It is actually legal aid funding for welfare benefits work that enables claimants to obtain the medical reports showing that ATOS has got it wrong. However, as the government plans to cut legal aid funding for these type of welfare cases through the ill-conceived Legal Aid, Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders bill, these vulnerable people will have no where to turn to get justice and fight an assessment system that is being criticised for being incorrect and unfair.

It is precisely for situations like this that the government needs to seriously reconsider it's plans to cut legal aid funding for welfare cases as it will only punish some of the most vulnerable people in our society - people we should be protecting.