The government’s plans to start testing 1.5 million people claiming incapacity benefit have been dealt a blow today with EU courts ruling that this amounts to discrimination against claimants.
The testing is designed to determine whether the claimants are actually fit for work or not, with anybody deemed fit to work losing their benefits and being encouraged to find employment. The EU ruling today means that only testing those claiming incapacity benefit would be a violation of their human rights, and if the coalition wants to press ahead with this policy they will have to test the entire working population of the UK. Anybody currently employed who is found to be unfit for work will be required to leave their job and start claiming incapacity benefit instead.
One man welcoming this decision is 34 year old Michael Church from Northampton. Michael has been out of work and claiming incapacity benefit since bruising his knee in a fall 12 years ago. “What was worrying me was how the test was going to be done. Sure, they can test my physical capabilities but the injury is all healed now, it’s the mental scars that are stopping me from working.” Michael suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and still has flashbacks to the day he tripped over his untied shoelace and landed heavily on his knee, bringing the pain and the memory of the bruise flooding back.
David Cameron however is undeterred by the ruling and is now re-visiting the plans in order to accommodate for testing of every one of the 30+ million working people in the UK. “We have to get the benefits system in this country in order and cannot let this ruling sway us from the path we are on.”
Initial estimates put the time taken for testing the entire working population at approximately 40 years. By this time many will be at retirement age. These people can therefore be excluded from the testing, which limits it to only testing anybody under the age of 27 and brings the number down considerably. However this approach may yet fall foul of age discrimination laws and the legal ins and outs still need to be fully explored.
The FA have already applied for an exemption for all professional footballers amid fears that the majority of them could be ruled unfit to work due to insufficient mental capacity. Boris Johnson is also understood to be opposed to the plans.