One in four incapacity benefit claimants in county judged fit for work
MORE than one in four people in Gloucestershire whose claims for incapacity benefit have been reassessed are fit for work, official figures reveal.
Of the 2,970 claimants in the county to have their reviews completed for the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) between October 2010 and February this year, 830 would lose the benefit and be expected to seek employment.
The Department for Work and Pensions said they will get help through Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme.
They would still be able to claim Jobseeker's Allowance if they remained unemployed.
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However, the assessment process has been controversial, with critics claiming many people subjected to it are wrongly classed as fit to work.
Meanwhile 2,150 (73 per cent) will be eligible for ESA, of which 800 (27 per cent) have been placed in the support group where they get unconditional support as they are too ill or disabled to work.
A further 1,350 (46 per cent) were put in the Work Related Activity Group, meaning they are currently too ill or disabled to work and entitled to the benefit, but will be expected to take steps towards an eventual return to work.
The number and proportion of claimants found fit to work across Gloucestershire were: Cheltenham 170 (28 per cent); Cotswold 60 (22 per cent); Forest of Dean 150 (32 per cent); Gloucester 230 (30 per cent); Stroud 140 (27 per cent); and Tewkesbury 80 (25 per cent).
Employment minister Mark Hoban said: "The old incapacity benefit system condemned too many people to a life on benefits without any hope of ever going back to work. This was simply wrong.
"I am under no illusion, however, that many face a difficult journey back into employment and we know this may take time. But for those who aspire to a life off benefits, the intensive support should be available through Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme to give them the best chance of finding a job."
Former soldier Lee Morris started a cycle hire shop in Stonehouse when a disability forced him to leave the Army.
He said for him, it was easier to work than claim incapacity benefit. He has Friedrichs Ataxia which affects his speech, co-ordination and balance, and claims Disability Living Allowance. "My balance is worse at some times than others, and it depends on which day it is assessed," he said.