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Employment and Support Allowance (Kettering)

Volume 570: debated on Monday 18 November 2013

2. How many people in Kettering constituency claim ESA; how many such claimants have had their claim turned down in the last year; and how many are appealing that decision to the first tier tribunal. (901069)

In Kettering 4,400 claims started between October 2008 and February 2013. Of those assessed, 49% were deemed fit for work. Appeals data, I fully accept, are running very slow, especially in my hon. Friend’s constituency, which he has been campaigning hard for. We will be looking to recruit more judges as we go forward.

Benefit appellants in the Kettering constituency are being told that they now have to wait up to 40 weeks for a first-tier tribunal hearing. This is more than twice the national average and is completely unacceptable. Will my hon. Friend speak with his counterpart in the Ministry of Justice and get the situation sorted out?

My hon. Friend has been campaigning hard on behalf of his constituents and we have been working closely with the Ministry of Justice, which is why I can announce that there were six sessions per month in June 2012 and there are now 18 sessions per month, a 300% increase, and we intend to do better.

People in Kettering and claimants elsewhere might be able to get a quicker resolution of their cases if the testing of the new descriptors for mental health and fluctuating conditions were brought to an end. It is more than two years since Professor Harrington suggested action. When will we see the results?

I am sure that in the hon. Lady’s constituency as well as in Kettering, we are working very hard to bring down the time it takes, particularly in the tribunals. We have been working closely on the area of mental health, and we will continue to work to make sure that everybody gets a fair deal from the process.