Questions have been raised over a government minister’s failure to listen to serious concerns about the controversial “fitness for work” test.
The concerns emerged after the airing of two prime-time television documentaries this week, both focusing on the operation of the test used to assess eligibility for the new out-of-work disability benefit, employment and support allowance (ESA).
A Channel 4 investigation through its Dispatches strand on Monday evening was immediately followed by a Panorama expose on BBC Two, and both heavily criticised the work of Atos Healthcare, the company which carries out the work capability assessments (WCA) for the government.
Panorama interviewed several disabled people who had been found “fit for work” following WCAs carried out by Atos “health professionals”, despite serious health conditions.
Among those interviewed was the family of a man with a heart condition who was found fit for work, successfully appealed against that decision, but was then called in for another assessment.
His family told how, on learning that he had been found fit for work a second time, he had decided Atos must be right and had decided to vacuum his car, before collapsing and dying minutes later.
During the programme, Chris Grayling, the Conservative employment minister, said it had become clear “in the last few months” that the government had been “calling people back too regularly” for assessments, and so he had told civil servants to “make sure we leave a much more sensible interval”.
But Grayling’s admission has been called into serious question by two leading Labour MPs.
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