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77% rise in illness benefit queries


Tuesday September 7th 2010

There has been a sharp rise number of people contacting Citizens Advice with queries about sickness and disability benefits, the charity said.

It said 45,257 people had contacted it about the employment and support allowance (ESA) during the second quarter of the year, some 77% higher compared with the same period in 2009.

The charity also warned it was bracing itself for a further sharp rise in Autumn, when more people will be entitled to claim it.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "Since ESA was introduced in October 2008 Citizens Advice has been monitoring its impact.

"We have previously published reports expressing our concern about poor knowledge of ESA rules among Jobcentre Plus and DWP [Department of Work and Pensions] medical staff, inadequate administration systems and the crude nature of the work capability assessment.

"This autumn, claimants on the old incapacity benefit will switch to ESA. With so many flaws in the current system we predict the number of people who come to us for advice on this benefit will only continue to increase."

Citizens Advice also reported a 17% rise in enquiries about carers allowance and an 11% increase in questions about disability living allowance.

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Copyright © Press Association 2010

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