A recent report from the UK charity, Citizens Advice, highlights grave concerns over the governments new Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for disability benefits.
The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is the means by which the government assesses whether someone is eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which replaced state Incapacity Benefit (IB) in October 2008 (under the Welfare Reform Act). The Citizens Advice report suggests that seriously ill and disabled people are being failed by these new tests and being left without government support at their time of need.
The WCA is designed to determine whether someone is ‘fit for work’ or not. The Citizens Advice report highlights the ineffectiveness of these assessments, with many of the tests used, such as a medical, not accounting for the complexities of many illnesses and disabilities. In fact, a press release for the report states that “Citizens Advice is hearing numerous reports of hurried medicals, where medical examiners miss vital details, make unjustifiable assumptions and don’t place enough emphasis on the impact of mental health issues on the ability to work.”
To state specific examples, it is argued that “people in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis, people with severe mental illness, and some who are dealing with acute short-term health problems, such as awaiting open heart surgery” are being required to return to work. In fact, the Charity argues that 69 per cent of those assessed are being refused ESA.
Those who are refused ESA are therefore left with no form of government support for incapacity, and thus have to either return to work, try to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or take their case to a tribunal. As an example, one individual in their 50’s was deemed fit for work even though they were suffering from sever heart disease and two different types of cancer.
It is clear that the governments new assessment measures are failing exactly the people who it was designed to protect. In this current climate any form of government support for serious physical and mental illness and disability is far from being guaranteed. Health & Protection magazine use this report to highlight the need for personal income protection plans as state support cannot be relied upon anymore.
Income protection plans provide an unparalleled level of earnings protection from sickness or injury. It is possible to insure up to 65% of gross monthly income until retirement and these policies generally payout for over 90 per cent of claims made, including those made for cancer and heart disease. In light of the recent Citizens Advice report, income protection insurance should become even more highly valued than ever before.