28 November 2011
Minister for Employment Chris Grayling has given a written parliamentary answer, explaining why the time given for people claiming Employment and Support Allowance to complete and return the application form has been reduced from six to four weeks.
He was responding to a question put forward by Stephen Lloyd, Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon.
Mr Grayling’s answer, recorded in Hansard, says: "From 31 October 2011, the time limits for returning the questionnaire (ESA50) were reduced from 42 days to 28 days overall. This is because the time scales were based on those for incapacity benefit, which included an additional 14 days for claimants to contact their GPs to make an appointment.
"This is not needed for Employment and Support Allowance claims and the Government believes that it is therefore reasonable reduce the time scales for returning the form from 28 days to 21 days, and the time for reminders to seven days from 14, which makes an overall total of 28 days.
"We would not wish for this to impinge on a claimant's ability to provide further evidence to support their claim as they will still be required to complete the remaining Work Capability Assessment process, of which, the return of ESA50 is just the start.
"We recognise concerns about the effects on vulnerable people, especially those with mental health problems. As a consequence we are retaining all existing safeguards for those claimants who demonstrate that they had good cause for failing to return the questionnaire on time. Decision Makers must consider the claimant's state of health, nature of disability and whether they were in Great Britain before deciding if the claimant has good cause for not completing the questionnaire on time."
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