SINN Féin Glens councillor Noreen McAllister has expressed concerns that the Dept of Social Development cannot provide overall figures for the cost of administering the ‘Work Capability Assessment’ process within the Social Security Agency and cannot provide the cost of carrying out appeals against assessments to date.
Cllr McAllister said: “Sinn Féin has warned from the outset about the problems the introduction of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) would create for people on Employment and Support Allowance and Incapacity Benefit. Sinn Féin highlighted fears over sick and disabled people with long term debilitating illness having to be reassessed and the impact that would have on them, the financial cost of administrating this new benefit and the probability of high rates of appeals.”
“A lot has been made about streamlining the benefits system, simplifying the system and cutting costs. But the evidence we are getting from our constituency offices, welfare rights for workers, charities for the disabled is that the new WCA is simply not working.
“We are seeing already a high number of appeals being lodged by those turned down for the benefits and a very high number of those appeals have been successful.”
Noreen added: “I feel it is very important that the Department of Social Development (DSD) provide the annual cost of carrying out Work Capability Assessments to date and what the annual cost of carrying out appeals against assessments to date.
“The DSD have now replied to a written question that was submitted by Sinn Féins MLA Caitriona Ruane to say that it is not possible to provide an overall cost of administering the Work Capability Assessment process within the Social Agency as it is integral but not specific activity within the entire claims process. The agency costing and financial systems do not capture the cost of administering the end to end Work Capability Assessment process.
“On the issue of the cost of appeals it said the agency does not gather information in respect of appeals against specific aspects of the claims process. It is therefore not possible to provide this information.
“I find it incredible that the Department cannot provide these details, this new system and the high number of appeals could be costing millions at a time when everyone is being told to tighten their belts.”