Government admits more needs to be done on fitness to work tests
21 June 2012
Calls from people with Parkinson's who need the
support of the benefit Employment and
Support Allowance (ESA) were heard this week in Parliament.
Halifax MP Linda Riordan (pictured right) held a
special debate on Monday about the fitness to work tests that
decide eligibility for the benefit.
In response, the government spokesperson, Chris Grayling MP,
promised that more will be done to address the problems in the
However, he failed to answer questions on why some people with
severe and progressive Parkinson's are
being classified as suitable to return to work in 6, 12 or 18
The issues at stake
People with Parkinson's often tell us that the tests for
eligibility to work are too crude and simplistic to take account of
the full symptoms and fluctuating nature of Parkinson's.
New rules in the Welfare Reform Act
introduced in March have also introduced a means test for some
people who claim ESA after one year.
This means that some people with Parkinson's who have a working
partner or modest savings lose their benefit.
Why I spoke out
Having met Ian and his colleagues it was their real experiences that moved me to hold this debate.
People with Parkinson's just want a fair system which treats them with respect.
Ian Barraclough, lives in Linda Riordan MP's constituency. He's
treasurer of our Yorkshire and Humber
Younger Persons' Support Group.
Ian explains why he's concerned about this issue:
"I was part of a delegation of working age people with
Parkinson's who visited Linda's office a few weeks ago to talk
about our worries surrounding this benefit.
"Not only was I driven by my own concerns at losing a benefit
but I was motivated by the experiences of others in our group on
the unfairness of these tests.
"ESA is meant to be a safety net for those who are too ill to
"We are still hearing of cases where benefits assessors seems to
think they know better than a neurologist or Parkinson's nurse."
Real stories, real lives
Linda Riordan MP comments:
"This is an important issue for thousands of people with
Parkinson's. Having met Ian and his colleagues it was their real
experiences and stories that moved me to hold this debate.
"Sadly, nothing the minister said convinced me that the
assessment system in place recognises, let alone understands, the
condition of Parkinson's.
"I was delighted to hold the debate, and I hope that the
Government not only listens but takes decisive action to make the
"People with Parkinson's are not asking for much; they just want
a fair system which treats them with respect."