HC Deb 12 November 1996 vol 285 cc148-9
11. Mr. Bill Michie

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many incapacity benefit claimants have been found to be fit for work by the all-work test since its introduction; how many of these have since claimed benefits as unemployed and seeking work; and how many have obtained employment. [1708]

Mr. Burt

Up to the end of September 1996, about 178,000 incapacity benefit claimants had been found capable of work following the all-work test. Some 73,000 claimed unemployment benefits. A total of 47,000 have since left the register. About 10,000 were placed in employment or on training schemes by the Employment Service.

Mr. Michie

Are not thousands of disabled people a great deal worse off now than they were 18 months ago due to the all-work test? Does not the fact that almost 50 per cent. of those who have appealed have been successful show that the test has not targeted those who really need the benefit?

Mr. Burt

No. As I said, the number of people whose appeals are successful is very similar to the number who were successful using the social security appeal tribunal. As for incomes, perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not hear me earlier when I said that the Government have quadrupled spending on benefits. Those facts answer his charges. The Government have shown no meanness towards disabled people.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Will my hon. Friend tell us how many claimants succeed in appeal who do not succeed in their first application, and what the main reasons for that success might be?

Mr. Burt

The reasons for success at appeal vary. People sometimes succeed at appeal because they are able to bring extra evidence to the tribunal; sometimes they succeed simply because the panel reconsiders the decision. The great strength of the system is that it enables an independent review to be conducted. In terms of the number of people who succeed in their appeals, the system is working in a manner that is not dissimilar to how it worked before.

Mr. Alan Howarth

Does the Minister accept—not least because of the figures he has just given to the House—that there are well-founded apprehensions that people are falling between the two stools of receiving incapacity benefit and jobseeker's allowance, unable to find work and falling into destitution? In the interests of public confidence and the good functioning of the incapacity benefit system—as well as open government and an appropriate accountability of the Executive to Parliament—will he make available for scrutiny by Parliament the draft contract for contracting out the Benefits Agency medical service?

Mr. Burt

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that we have hardly any evidence of people—as he described them—falling between the stools. The answer to a parliamentary question tabled by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) revealed that only a tiny percentage of people who applied for the jobseeker's allowance did not receive it after they had been knocked off incapacity benefit, and that they were unsuccessful only because they had placed restrictions on their employment. A range of measures has been designed to make it easy for disabled people who may have lost incapacity benefit to retain benefit. I think that the hon. Gentleman will be reassured by the fact that we have asked the Policy Studies Institute to conduct a review of those who leave incapacity benefit so that we can ensure that some of the worries that he expressed are not realised.

More information will be made available about the contractorisation of the Benefits Agency medical service. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will find that his questions will be answered, as they have been up to now.

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