Why are ESA benefit disallowance figures being withheld by DSD Minister?-Sinn Féin
Published: 30 January, 2012
Sinn Féin West Tyrone MLA Michaela Boyle is questioning why Minister Nelson Mc Causland's DSD Department is continuing to withhold details of the number of people who have been disallowed Employment Support Allowance since the controversial private company Atos Orgin began carrying the 'Work Capability Assessment' contract on behalf of the Department as and from in June 2011.
"For the second time in as many months I have submitted a question to Minister Nelson Mc Causland seeking a breakdown of the numbers who have been disallowed Employment and Support Allowance since Atos Orgin began carrying out the Work Capability assessment for the benefit in June last year.
"While the Minister was able to confirm that 12,578 customers have completed the Assessment he once again failed to provide the corresponding data in terms of the numbers/or percentage of this total have been disallowed merely stating that disallowance is 'the responsibility of a Social Security Decision Maker.'
"It is inconceivable that this data does not exist or that is not being shared with other relevant sections of the Social Security Agency so the question has to be asked as to why it is being withheld?
"Has it got to do with the fact that the overwhelming majority of ESA claimants undergoing the new 'Work Capability Assessment' are being disallowed despite many claimants having, severely debilitating, chronic and life limiting illnesses.
"The flawed nature of the new Work Capability Assessment being undertaken by Atos is clearly evident given the large percentage of disallowance decisions being subsequently overturned at Appeal Tribunal stage where full consideration is given to all medical evidence.
"Of those overturned on appeal, 60% involved cases where the claimant had originally been awarded no points in the Work Capibility Assessment. This statistic in itself raises serious questions about just how objective these Assessments are but, when you combine this with the fact that Atos are paid on the basis of the number of people processed, any semblance of objectivity is undermined even further.
"Apart from the increasing number and spiralling costs of Appeal Tribunals, the systems failures in the current ESA process are inflicting unnecessary distress onto some of the most vulnerable people within our community.
"The Minister must now publicly disclose the number of ESA claimants who have been disallowed since Atos were contracted to carry out the Work Capability Assessments. I suspect that if these statistics are released on a district by district basis then even greater questions will arise as to the objectivity of the current process!" ENDS
Note to editors: Question to Minister-Answered 24th Jan
To ask the Minister for Social Development how many Employment and Support Allowance claimants have failed the Work Capability Assessment, since ATOS Origin began conducting the assessments.
12,578 customers have completed the Work Capability Assessment since Atos Healthcare was appointed on 20 June 2011.
The decision on whether or not a customer is to be disallowed ESA is the responsibility of a Social Security Agency Decision Maker. It is not possible to provide detail on outcomes from the assessments as it is not held in the form requested.