PROBLEMS with the way ill and disabled people are assessed for benefits have been highlighted at a parliamentary debate.

Laura Pidcock, who represents North-West Durham, secured the debate on Work Capability Assessments in Westminster Hall yesterday afternoon.

The system was introduced in October 2008 by the New Labour Government, but their use was accelerated by the Coalition Government from 2010.

The assessments are now also used to determine whether Universal Credit claimants are eligible for the additional support elements to do with ill health and disability.

Ms Pidcock said: “There are severe problems with the way these assessments are carried out, via private contractors, whose interests are often to cut costs rather than provide care and support.

“What we are seeing are poor standards, difficulties for claimants to access assessments and a lack of support for those with mobility problems.

“Added to that, inaccurate decisions are commonplace, and the time that it takes to correct these poor initial decisions, via a lengthy and stressful appeals process, leads to many of my constituents being in limbo, awaiting due process.”

Of particular concern is the way that mental health problems and fluctuating conditions are accounted for, and the accuracy of face-to-face assessments.

The assessment also decides a person’s ‘conditionality’ level, that is, whether they have to look for work or not.

It only affects ‘working-age’ claimants, which now extends to 66.

Ms Pidcock said: “The Work Capability Assessments have created a hostile environment for many vulnerable people, which stops them from getting the support and care they need.

“Disabled activists have been shouting this from the rooftops for years, and welfare rights organisations have provided countless reports detailing the evidence.

“It’s about time the DWP and the Government listened to these voices.”

Justin Tomlinson, Minister of State for Disabled People, said: “It is clear that there is a real desire to see continuing improvements and just how important that improvement is for people going through this process.”