Hazzard makes maiden speech in the Assembly

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Friday, May 25th, 2012
Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard has welcomed the support for his motion on the reassessment of people in receipt of Incapacity Benefit. Using his maiden speech in the Assembly to speak in support of the motion Mr Hazzard stated, “I welcome the support for the motion from all the parties today for the motion that highlights the flawed nature of the process. Every speaker was able to relate a story of a constituent who faced a panel and was found fit for work although they were clearly unable to hold down employment. The vast majority had their benefit restored on appeal.” He continued, “To date, around 9,000 people here have had their claim reassessed. Within the next two years 57,000 more people are scheduled to undertake a test whose design and implementation has already provoked a great deal of criticism. The test, designed by a British occupational therapist and conducted by a private company is not a medical reassessment but a capability test. The Work Capability Assessment is not designed to determine how chronically ill a person is. It is not designed to determine if their condition has worsened or improved.” “It only decides, regardless of your health and physical condition, if could you carry out some sort of work, any kind of imagined work. Not a specified job, not a real job in the real labour market but a projected possibility of a job. This is no way to treat sick and vulnerable members of our community – all welfare systems are a balance between ensuring incentives to work and preventing the defenseless falling into abject penury – we must not allow the balance to tip the wrong way. These appeals are costing the tax payer hundreds of thousands of pounds each year and as this money comes directly from the block grant this means services are being cut to subsidise them.” “I am calling on the Minister of Social Development Nelson McCausland to urgently review the reassessment process to avoid both undue stress and the additional burden it is placing on the public purse by triggering so many appeals,” Hazzard added.
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