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Employment and Support Allowance Appeals

Volume 552: debated on Monday 5 November 2012

13. If he will make it his policy to begin monitoring the number of people who die as a result of (a) illness and (b) suicide whilst awaiting the result of employment and support allowance appeals. (126310)

My Department publishes information on ESA appeals when they have been heard by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service. We have no plans to capture or publish official statistics relevant to the specific circumstances described. In July, we published data on the number of deaths of incapacity benefits recipients. They include claimants awaiting appeal where benefit is still in payment.

With Atos failing on 40% of its work capability assessments, with an estimated 30 to 80 people dying each week between assessment and appeal, and with 6% of doctors surveyed reporting that they have patients who have either attempted or committed suicide as a result of work capability assessments, does the Minister not think that he has a duty to monitor the effect of his policies?

As I said in answer to earlier questions, we are monitoring the effect of our policies. We are ensuring that the work capability assessment is fit for purpose and that is why we asked Professor Harrington to carry out a third review to ensure that the process is right and fair. The hon. Lady should also remember that the work capability assessment is an assessment of people’s ability to work, not a diagnostic test.

Will the Minister confirm that all Atos doctors, nurses and physiotherapists are fully trained and registered with their relevant professional body?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. All Atos health professionals are properly qualified and they get additional training to help them undertake the work capability assessment.