NAT (National AIDS Trust) responds to figures released today from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which show 75% of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants are found either ‘fit for work’ or drop their claim before they’re completed.

Based on these statistics, Ministers believe they are ’right to press ahead with the reassessment of those on old style Incapacity Benefits’. However, research by NAT has shown that people living with HIV are being found ‘fit for work’ despite medical evidence showing them to have a range of serious physical and mental health problems. These include severe immune deficiency, co-infection with pneumonia or TB, fatigue, depression and debilitating side-effects from essential HIV treatment.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:

‘The refusal of 39% of ESA claims is not conclusive evidence that Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is effective. These claimants may be found ‘fit for work’ under the rules of WCA, but many face very real health-related barriers to work which have been overlooked during the assessment process.

‘NAT is extremely concerned by the high drop out rate of 36% closing a claim before a decision on their benefits is reached. Withdrawing a claim is not proof of ineligibility for ESA. An independent review of the WCA revealed serious problems with decision-making and administration in the ESA system, and real failures in the way the DWP communicated with claimants. Stopping a claim halfway through the process points towards these fundamental flaws in the system – which are yet to be resolved – as much as the merits of the claim itself.’

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