ST HELENS North MP Dave Watts has backed a Citizens Advice Bureau campaign for substantial reform to government fit for work tests.
The St Helens CAB released a statement supporting calls for ministers to ensure that people appealing decisions of the tests have access to free medical evidence to support their claim.
Research conducted by Citizens Advice has shown nearly half of GPs charge a fee when providing people with medical records as part of efforts to overturn Government fit for work assessments.
Karl Pearce, chief officer of St Helens Citizens Advice, says that the research is “the latest in a depressing line” of problems with Work Capability Assessments, which determine an individual’s eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance.
“The cost of getting medical evidence is the latest in a depressing line of obstacles people face in getting fair treatment in fit for work tests.
“St Helens CAB works closely with doctors in the area to help our clients cope with ESA appeals and the health problems which too often go hand-in-hand with the challenge of making ends meet. We all want to see people get the support they need but, at the moment, charges which are unaffordable for many people are adding a big burden.
“The results should be an alarm bell for everyone involved in helping people with sickness and disability to live independently. If doctors are unable to provide help due to a shortage of time or resources then the Government needs to step in and make sure the system works.”
Meanwhile, Mr Watts added: “I fully support the CAB’s campaign, which calls on the Government to provide financial support for people who require medical evidence to support their fit for work appeals.
“We know that thousands of claimants currently win their appeals and that many original medical assessments are seriously flawed.
“Unless the government provides this financial support many vulnerable people will face the prospect of not being able to challenge unfair decisions in the future.
In response, the Department of Work and Pensions emphasised that they do not enforce charges on medical evidence to anyone.
A spokesperson said: “We certainly do not ask anybody to go and commission medical evidence that will cost money.
“We don’t ask at any stage for anyone to pay for medical evidence. It is really up to the medical practitioners.”