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Work Capability Assessments for disabled people facing overhaul

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green Credit: PA

The British government is planning an overhaul of the assessment process for disability benefit claimants, in an effort to help more people back into work.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green will announce on Monday the launch of a consultation on reform of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) tests.

Minister say they want more "targeted and personalised support" for disabled people while they look for work.

The move was welcomed by disability charities who said the system at the moment was "fundamentally flawed", but campaigners warned that those who are unable to work must continue receiving the support they need.

Mr Green said the changes would focus on "improving opportunities and raising aspirations while making sure those people who most need support from the Government receive it".

It comes amid concern that disabled people receive low levels of support from JobCentre Plus, even though some could find work with the right assistance.

The announcement comes after Mr Green said people with severe, long-term conditions will no longer face reassessment for their benefits.

MS Society chief executive said the government must accept some people may not be able to work. Credit: PA

The Work and Pensions Secretary said: "We know the right type of work is good for our physical and mental health, but we need a more pragmatic health and welfare system that reflects this - one that offers work for all those who can, help for those who could and care for those who can't.

"A disability or health condition should not dictate the path a person is able to take in life. No one wants a system where people are written off and forced to spend long periods of time on benefits when, actually, with the right support they could be getting back into work."

The move was welcomed by disability charity Scope, with chief executive Mark Atkinson saying: "The current fit-for-work test doesn't accurately identify the barriers disabled people face in entering or staying in work.

"All disabled people should be able to access expert, tailored employment support and the Government should work with employers to create flexible, modern workplaces."

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said WCA should be scrapped altogether.

She said: "Whilst I welcome the Government's acknowledgement that their callous Work Capability Assessments cause needless misery and stress for thousands upon thousands of sick and disabled people, Theresa May needs to take responsibility for her part in these disastrous social security reforms.

"This cruel Tory approach is ideologically driven with the sole purpose of targeting the most vulnerable in our society to pay for their austerity plans, painting disabled people as scroungers and shirkers, whilst making no impact on the disability employment gap."

MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchel said that the consultation was positive but the government must accept some people simply may not be able to work.

She said: "We are keen to help create a system that makes more sense.

"However, it must be recognised that many people with long-term progressive conditions will simply be too unwell to work and no amount of extra employment support will change that."