Hundreds of thousands hit by benefits backlog

10 June 2014

The government has announced that hundreds of thousands of people have been hit by a benefits backlog, with more than 700,000 people waiting for an Employment Support Allowance (ESA) assessment.

Mike Penning, Minister for Disabled People, blamed the delays on Atos, the contractor that is carrying out controversial fitness-to-work tests. However, Atos has said its staff have been “vilified” and abused for doing what was asked of them by ministers.

When Labour MP Katy Clark asked why the majority of those who had applied for the personal independence payment (PIP) had yet to receive a decision in Parliament, David Cameron said that the changes should be carried out “in a way that works well” rather than to an “artificial deadline”.

In total, more than three million people on ESA, including all those who previously claimed incapacity benefit, are being assessed to see how their illness or disability affects their ability to work.

In response, Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice explained that : “Employment Support Allowance is now the biggest single issue that Citizens Advice clients need help with and more than 1.5 million people have come to us about problems with ESA since it was introduced.”