Work and pensions secretary Peter Hain has launched a renewed drive to end sicknote Britain by outlining a new medical test that will assess a person’s capability to work.
Hain said the new test was “more robust, accurate and fairer”. Half of those who take the assessment will not pass it, meaning that 20,000 fewer people a year will enter ‘sickness’ benefits as a result, he added.
There are currently 2.64 million working age people claiming incapacity benefits, which cost the UK economy nearly £12.5bn in 2006-07. Figures out today revealed almost 2,000 people who are too fat to work have been paid £4.4m in benefit.
The new test, called the Work Capability Assessment, will be introduced in October 2008 and will be applicable for all those people claiming the new allowance. It will look at people’s physical and mental ability, assess what an individual can do – rather than can’t do.
Hain said: “Currently, there are many people sitting at home in the belief that they are unemployable, with no life choices or long-term prospects because they do not think their illness or medical conditions can be catered for in the workplace.
“But this is just not the case – many people with such conditions are perfectly able to take up successful careers, if the right support is in place.”
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development welcomed the plans, but warned more action was required to get GPs to work more closely with employers to stop people slipping into long-term sickness in the first place.
Ben Willmott, CIPD employee relations adviser, said: “Employers will welcome a refocusing of the incapacity benefits system on to what people can do, not what they can’t.
“But the government rhetoric about ending sicknote Britain will ring hollow until they do more to stem the tide of people falling into long-term sickness in the first place.”