Nearly 60 per cent of disability benefit claimants were found to be fit enough to work in the West Midlands – following tests which have been criticised by the man responsible for overseeing them.
They were told their bid for Employment and Support Allowance had been rejected and they should look for a job instead.
But the government adviser responsible for overseeing the tests, occupational therapist Professor Malcolm Harrington, is to step down after calling for an overhaul of the process of testing claimants’ ability to work to make it more “fair and humane”.
Figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions show that decisions were made on 8,200 applications for Employment and Support Allowance, the benefit which has replaced incapacity benefit, over a three-month period in the West Midlands.
But 4,900 were rejected and the claimant was pronounced fit for work. It means 59 per cent of cases where a decision was made resulted in the claimant being told they were fit for work.
Another 1,500 people, 18 per cent, were placed in a “work-related activity group”, where they receive training and support, such as help with interviewing techniques, designed to help them join the workforce eventually.
Just 1,800 claimants, 22 per cent of those claiming Employment and Support Allowance, were placed permanently on the benefit over a three-month period in the West Midlands.
And in the same period, another 7,100 claims were simply withdrawn before a decision was taken.
The figures refer to new claims. People who claim old benefits which are being phased out, such as incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance or income support paid on the grounds of illness or disability, are also undergoing assessments.
In April, the Government revealed that around a third of these claimants were also being categorised as fit to work following fresh tests.
The 13-week assessment, which tests physical fitness as well as mental skills, was first introduced by Labour.
Prof Harrington was called in to review the tests after thousands of disabled people successfully challenged their test results. He has admitted that some claimants who are genuinely unable to work had been through a “traumatic” experience because of the tests.
He told the programme: “I think people are being treated more like human beings now, but it is still difficult to go through it.”
The Government has not published regional figures for the number of initial decisions overturned on appeal, but nationally around 15 per cent of decisions result in appeals and just under a third of these result in a decision being overturned.