Incapacity benefit reassessment has been successfully implemented and the reassessment exercise remains on track to be completed by spring 2014. We are reassessing around 11,000 claimants on incapacity benefits each week. Those who are ready and fit for work are able to receive support via the Work programme. Those who are not fit for work will continue to receive ongoing support for as long as they need it.
I thank the Minister for his answer, but is it not true that growing delays in the process are increasing the uncertainty for vulnerable people? Does he accept the evidence provided by groups such as the Barrow & District Disability Association that the call-back time for the advisers’ helpline has increased from three hours to often more than 24 hours? Does he acknowledge that if this process runs aground due to incompetence, the most vulnerable people and the taxpayer will lose out?
Let me repeat that the incapacity benefit reassessment process, which is just coming up to one year old, is running on time. We have some delays in the claims process for new claimants of employment and support allowance, which is resulting in people having to wait an average of five days longer to be assessed than was previously the case. That is too long. They are having to wait five days longer as a result of the changes implemented following Professor Harrington’s review, but we have a programme in place to enable us to catch up by the summer.