Changes in the way the Department of Work and Pensions treats ill or disabled people, which come in to effect later this month, have been denounced by local MP Michael McCann.
He believes the new procedures could leave many genuinely needy families without any income for an unspecified time through no fault of their own.
He is convinced they are an attempt to save millions at the expense of the most vulnerable members of society – dreamt up by a Government desperate to gloss over the highly-publicised deficiencies of the current system.
Until now, claimants who are ill or disabled but are judged fit for work, automatically lose their Employment and Support Allowance. This is often their main source of income.
However, they can appeal immediately and their ESA is reinstated until the appeal outcome is decided.
From October 28, ill or disabled claimants who dispute a DWP decision will not be allowed to appeal straight away.
Instead they will go through a “Mandatory Reconsideration” process, during which their case will be re-examined by officials. ESA will not be paid during this time.
If after the Mandatory Reconsideration the claimant is still unsatisfied, he or she has the right to appeal to a tribunal. It is only at this stage that ESA will be reinstated.
Michael, the MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, has criticised this new set up as completely unfair, because families could be left without any state support for an unspecified length of time.
He said: “The DWP’s current appeals and disputes process is creaking under the strain of the large number of cases it has to deal with on a daily basis.
“Staff simply can’t cope with the number of complaints, often made by very ill and disabled people, who have been told by so-called experts that they are fit for work.
“The media has regularly described some of the more bizarre rulings by the DWP.
“Yet instead of fixing the problem in a way which would be fair to all concerned, they’ve come up with an even worse system, one which will increase the misery of those who have already been mistreated.
“The DWP have not specified how long the Mandatory Reconsideration process is likely to last. All they’ve said is that during this period claimants will not receive their Employment and Support Allowance.
“This could lead to widespread suffering for individuals and families who don’t deserve to be in this situation.
“This Government has never shown any compassion to the weaker members of our society but these changes reflect a new low. They are stealing from the sick and disabled and using the money to give tax breaks to their millionaire pals.”