18 October 211
Further to our recent query about Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments during appeal, political monitoring agency DeHavilland has highlighted employment minister Chris Grayling’s recent written answer to a question by Andrew Smith, dated 12 October.
It says that (1) where an ESA recipient who is found fit for work following a work capability assessment (WCA) subsequently appeals against the decision, they will receive the assessment phase rate of ESA during the appeals process, but (2) where ESA is disallowed for failing to return the WCA questionnaire or attend for medical examination, ESA is not available pending the outcome of an appeal.
However, while this clarifies the current situation, it doesn’t give any reassurances about whether a proposal to stop the payment is on the table.
Extract from Hansard
Hansard written answers for 12 October 2011 includes the following:
“Mr Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) whether he carried out an impact assessment of his proposal not to allow access to employment and support allowance during an appeal period; and what account such an impact assessment took of the potential effect on claimants' health and ability to improve their capacity for work of such a policy; (2) how many employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants have had no access to ESA while appealing a decision to end their ESA payments due to a failure to (a) return the work capability questionnaire and (b) attend an ATOS medical assessment for whatever reason since its inception; (3) if he will make it his policy to provide some financial support to claimants who have no access to employment and support allowance while appealing a decision to refuse it.
“Chris Grayling: The current policy is that where an ESA recipient who is found fit for work following a work capability assessment (WCA) subsequently appeals against the decision, they will receive the assessment phase rate of ESA during the appeals process. Therefore, the amount of money the person receives will not change.
“Those ESA claimants who appeal the WCA outcome of being placed in the Work Related Activity Group will continue to receive basic-rate ESA plus the work-related activity component until the outcome of the appeal is known.
“Where a claimant fails to attend a WCA appointment, benefit entitlement is not automatically withdrawn by a decision maker. It is recognised that there can be genuine reasons for non-attendance, particularly when a claimant's medical condition fluctuates daily to such an extent that it prevents attendance. To identify when such circumstances may apply, a number of provisions and safeguards have been built into the current process.
“These provisions ensure decision makers give full consideration to each claimant's particular circumstances before deciding whether benefit entitlement is affected. It is only when a Decision Maker decides a claimant has not shown "good cause" for not attending that entitlement is changed.
“Where ESA is disallowed for failing to return the WCA questionnaire or attend for medical examination, ESA is not available pending the outcome of an appeal. This avoids the risk of abuse. If benefit were available in this situation it could be paid indefinitely to people who repeatedly fail to comply. As such, benefit is payable only when the questionnaire is completed and returned or the person attends for examination.
“This is different to the situation where a person appeals because they do not agree with a determination, for benefit entitlement purpose's, that they do not have limited capability for work. ESA is available in these cases in recognition that people who disagree with the decision that they do not have limited capability for work would not necessarily wish to work, or present themselves as well enough to work, until their appeal had been decided.
“The Department does not collect information in respect of the number of ESA claimants whose benefit has ceased as a result of a failure to attend a WCA or return their medical questionnaire.”
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