Work Capability Assessments are designed to check whether people are eligible for benefits on the basis that they are ill or disabled
Hundreds of people contacted a North East MP to express concern about a test designed to see whether people are disabled or ill enough to receive benefits.
North West Durham MP Laura Pidcock is now to lead a House of Commons debate about the tests, known as Work Capability Assessments.
They help determine whether people are entitled to Employment Support Allowance, which is paid to people who cannot work, or to Universal Credit.
If people are found to be fit to work then they can be ordered to attempt to find employment or to prepare to start looking – and can lose their benefits if they fail to comply.
But campaigners say the tests can be humiliating and unfair, and sometimes lead to the wrong conclusion so that people have their benefits cut for no reason.
There have also been reports of people losing their benefits because they were unable to attend an assessment.
Ms Pidcock put out a call to people who had been through the process to share their experiences, and says her office received hundreds of submissions via email, social media and by phone.
She said many of the stories spoke of a sense of injustice, and of poor treatment at the hands of assessors.
During the debate, which lasts 90 minutes, others MPs will also be able to share the experiences of their constituents.
Ms Pidcock said: “We weren’t surprised to find that our inbox was inundated, as dissatisfaction and stress related to the Work Capability Assessment is a big issue in our constituency, as I’m sure it is all over the country.
“Some of the stories we’ve heard from those who’ve gone through the Work Capability Assessment are truly harrowing.”
She added: “There are also severe problems with the way these assessments are carried out, via private contractors, whose interests are often to cut costs rather than provide care and support.
“What we are seeing are poor standards, difficulties for claimants to access assessments and a lack of support for those with mobility problems.
Added to that, inaccurate decisions are commonplace, and the time that it takes to correct these poor initial decisions, via a lengthy and stressful appeals process, leads to many of my constituents being in limbo, awaiting due process.
“The Work Capability Assessments have created a hostile environment for many vulnerable people, which stops them from getting the support and care they need.”
A Government minister will respond on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.