Campaigners said the new figures demonstrated, yet again, that the welfare system was failing people who were ill or disabled.
Almost 60% of ill or disabled individuals who have challenged a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ruling that they are “fit to work” have won their case at tribunals.
The DWP’s own figures show 58% of people who appealed against the loss of the employment support allowance (ESA), a benefit awarded to people who are unable to work due to illness or disability, for claims started between July and September last year had the jobcentre’s decision later reversed on appeal.
These are the most up-to-date statistics on appeals available, due to the DWP only recording the outcomes of completed appeals – a process that can take months.
Earlier this year, statistics released in March showed 52% of appeals lodged between October 2014 to December 2014 were upheld.
The latest figures were condemned by disability charity Mencap, which told BuzzFeed News they demonstrated a “broken benefits system that continues to fail sick and disabled people”.
Rossanna Trudgian, Mencap’s head of campaigns, said it was those most in need – who “desperately rely” on ESA – that were being failed. Without it, they would struggle to remain part of society and maintain their often fragile health.
“Behind these numbers, though,” she said, “are real people who live in fear of being assessed for their disability by people who don’t have full understanding of their condition” and “continue to incorrectly assess disabled people as being fit-for-work”.
Mother of two Charlie Foulkes, 43, was left without her full support after an assessor ruled she was “fit for work” in January of this year. Eventually, in May, a tribunal took the decision to restore her ESA entirely.
“I know this sounds melodramatic but you kind of just end up thinking, Do they just really want people to die, just to get rid of them?” she told BuzzFeed News. “It’s vile.”
The former university worker, who suffers from psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, and migraines, had been on welfare for 10 years before her reassessment. “They said that I looked fit and well,” she noted. “They just don’t listen at all. They tell a lot of lies.”
She appeared in front of a tribunal in May. “Within 20 minutes the judge had decided that she didn’t want to hear any more and gave me full marks for just the first two descriptors, based on my mobility,” Foulkes said, “so that was it.”
But, she said, she remains very worried about the future, and has been left with severe anxiety and stress as a result of the appeals process. “It just seems that the government doesn’t care about anyone’s medical problems,” she said. “It is all just how many people they can get off benefits.”