ESA re-tests 'pointless', says Green

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green has said it was pointless to re-test recipients of the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit wage if their illness was such that they had no prospect of recovering.

Thousands of people suffering from long-term sickness claiming ESA will no longer have to undertake regular medical assessments to keep receiving their payments.

Currently, more than two million people receive ESA, which is worth up to £109 per week.

Under the original regulations, applications for ESA must undergo a work capability assessment to find out if they are eligible and are re-tested to ensure their condition has not changed. Some recipients are re-tested every three months and others up to two years later.

Conditions which allow a person to qualify for continuous payments without reassessment include severe severe Huntington's, autism or congenital heart conditions.

Green said: ”If you have got a condition that has made you unfit for work and which can only stay the same or get worse, I think it is just pointless... to just bring someone back again.

"It's the severity of the condition that matters, because indeed there are some people with MS... that can work, but we know that it's a degenerative disease so there will come a point when it may well be that they can't work.

"After that it seems to me that re-testing and reassessing them doesn't do them any good - it might induce anxiety and stress in them - and it is also not doing the system any good because it is pointless."

Tim Nicholls, policy manager at the National Autistic Society, commented: “The flawed assessment process can be highly stressful for autistic people who can experience high levels of anxiety meeting new people or when their routine is broken, particularly when the stakes are so high.

"We will be looking out for more details from the government."

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