The Limited Capacity for Work test assesses whether a claimant is entitled to “Employment and Support Allowance”, the benefit paid to some people who are most clearly unfit for work. Should the State support those who are unfit for work? Yes- but Great Britain does not. People fall through the cracks designed for that purpose, and some of them die as a result.
This is because the test is so restrictive. You need fifteen points to qualify for benefit. Someone who requires a wheelchair will not get any points at all for that if they can self-propel the wheelchair two hundred metres over flat ground without severe discomfort or repeatedly stopping.
Someone who is profoundly deaf will not because of that score any points, if they can understand a simple message by reading it.
Someone who is registered blind who can use a guide dog on familiar routes, but not unfamiliar routes, only scores nine points for this. That is not enough to get the benefit. Where it says a guide dog “could reasonably be used” this may include where a guide dog is unavailable.
On mental health, someone who not only Cannot cope with minor unplanned change (such as the timing of an appointment on the day it is due to occur), to the extent that overall, day-to-day life is made significantly more difficult but also Engagement in social contact with someone unfamiliar to the claimant is not possible for the majority of the time due to difficulty relating to others or significant distress experienced by the claimant only scores twelve points, insufficient to get the benefit. Clearly people incapable of looking after themselves are found fit for work.
The test is restrictive. However severe your disability, if it does not fit under one of these headings it will score no points.
The concept of a three tier scheme is a good one. There are people with such great difficulties in working that they are not forced to look for work, though they are offered help to look for work. Most of those who score fifteen points on this test are considered fit for some work, and are sanctioned if they do not co-operate with seeking work. However far too many people- profoundly deaf, registered blind, confined to a wheelchair or incapable of living independently because of mental health problems- are put on jobseeker’s allowance, and subject to the full range of sanctions. Their money will be stopped if they do not apply for enough jobs. They have to sign on every two weeks.
Given that people are under pressure to find work even if they score fifteen points on this test, the test should be more generous. However, it is being continually tightened: it was not so restricted when introduced by the Labour government in 2008. The result is that it kills people. How many sanctions kill is unknown. One food bank trust alone gave out 913,138 parcels in one year. Here are some every-day horror stories.