“Worry” as thousands of incapacity benefit claimants in Havering face review

MORE than 7,500 people in Havering on incapacity benefit (IB) will have their claims reviewed next year under the Government’s radical welfare shake-up.

All claimants will have to undergo medical tests to prove they cannot work, in a move to save the public purse �2billion.

Only the most severely disabled and terminally ill will be exempt and helped with Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Those found fit for work will move onto Jobseekers’ Allowance - a cash cut of around a third - and will be expected to look for a job.

The move, announced recently, is designed to end the one-size-fits all approach to those with health conditions, which has led to 2.1million people nationally languishing on benefits.

Sharron Peel, chief executive of charity Havering Association for People with Disabilities (HAD), said there was worry rumbling in the community.

“We are all concerned that there have been people taking out of the system when they shouldn’t have been, and it’s absolutely right that the Government is developing systems to make it harder for those people to take unfair advantage.

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“However, there is a down side: this review is very worrying for those who are entitled to benefits, and there are concerns that some people may fall on the wrong side and unjustly lose out.”

She added: “People are already worried. We’ve had phone calls, but until the new system comes into practice it’s difficult to reassure people.”

She advised residents to seek guidance locally at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and PASC, both in Romford, or via the national benefits helpline on: 08457 123 456.

IB claimants in Burnley and Aberdeen are currently being reassessed, before the programme is phased in gradually across the rest of the country from next spring.

Minister for Employment Chris Grayling said: “It’s unacceptable that so many people have been written off to a lifetime on benefits.

“We know that many of the people trapped on incapacity benefits could and do want to work, but the current system doesn’t allow them to.”

Nationally there are currently 2.136m working age people claiming IB. Of these, there are 1.2m who have been claiming for five years or more, and 900,000 who have been claiming for a decade.