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Charities criticise 'flawed' fit for work system

Half of people with a progressive disease such as multiple sclerosis have been told they will recover enough to work by the Work Capability Assessment. 

Figures released today showed that 45% of people who put in a claim for the benefit Employment Support Allowance (ESA) over the past five years, who had conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, Parkinson's or Rheumatoid Arthritis were placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). 

People in this group were deemed able to recover from their condition enough to be able to look for work. 

However, the charity Parkinson's UK said this “directly contradicts” the definition of a progressive condition, which can only get worse over time. 

According to the charity, many have their benefit removed after a year as an “incentive” to find employment. 

Parkinson's UK, the MS Society, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust have called for the abolition of the system. 

Caroline Hacker, head of policy at Parkinson's UK said: “These incomprehensible decisions go to show that many assessors, and those who rubber-stamp the decisions in government, don't apply the most basic understanding of the medical conditions they are dealing with.” 

The charities have called on Atos Healthcare, who carry out the tests, to seek out medical guidance and justify rulings to avoid causing unnecessary distress.