CAB urges government to change incapacity benefit tests

Government plans to reform incapacity benefits will fail unless changes are made to the way people are assessed, the Citizens Advice Bureau has warned.

The bureau said the process used to determine who qualifies for incapacity benefits is deeply flawed and that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) relies too heavily on the findings of tests, rather than evidence from GPs or other practitioners.  

Mentally ill people are particularly vulnerable to being misdiagnosed, the What the doctor ordered? report found.

In one case a woman with severe mental health problems lost her benefit after a doctor said she “didn’t look mental”.

She had to live on £39 a week for six months while awaiting an appeal, the bureau said.

The government should appoint a mental health champion to ensure the benefits system deals better with cases involving people with mental health problems, the report said.

The government’s reforms include rolling out a £360m ‘Pathways to Work’ programme across the UK by 2008 – introducing mandatory work-focused interviews, working with employers to develop work-taster programmes for single parents and to extend flexible working arrangements for older workers.

The plan is to cut one million of the 2.7 million claimants over a 10-year period, resulting in a substantial reduction to the annual £12.5bn benefits bill.

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