Hartlepool councillors are calling on the Government to scrap its fitness to work test for disabled benefit claimants branding the current system ‘inhumane’ and not fit for purpose.
Councillor Alan Clark, who put forward a motion before the Full Council, told of one town man who was declared fit for work despite waiting for a double kidney transplant and having to travel four times a week to hospital in Newcastle for dialysis.
The motion calls on the Department of Work and Pensions to replace the Work Capability Assessment used to decide if a person is eligible for Employment Support Allowance.
Coun Clark said: “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Hartlepool residents who have had to endure the indignity of the Work Capability Assessment.
“I have spoken to scores of people around this issue and there’s been some quite unbelievable stories which have been expressed with raw emotion.
“How can anybody be expected to find work and live a healthy and happy life when awaiting a double kidney transplant?”
Coun Clark added the man then suffered “the ultimate indignity” of having his mobility vehicle taken away which he used to travel for dialysis treatment.
He said Work Capability Assessments were carried out by non-medical professionals and people are asked questions and their answers are scored.
He said a third of decisions go to appeal and more than half are later overturned at tribunals.
Coun Clark said: “Why put people through the indignity in the first place?”
Coun Kevin Cranney said people are discouraged from appealing for fear of delaying their payments fuelling demand on foodbanks.
The motion received unanimous support from councillors and political groups on the council.
Conservative group leader Coun Ray Martin-Wells said: “Clearly the present system is not fit for purpose.”
A Department for Work & Pensions spokesman said: “Work Capability Assessments look at what a person can do, rather than focus on what they can’t, and the assessment criteria was designed in consultation with healthcare professionals and disability organisations.
“Decisions for ESA are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.”