HALTON Citizens Advice Bureau is backing a national campaign to ensure sick and disabled people are not left stranded due to Government benefit reforms.

The charity fears that recent changes to employment support allowance will make it harder for sick and disabled people to receive fair treatment.

Advisers and volunteers in Widnes and Runcorn have helped 763 people in the past 12 months with problems regarding this allowance.

Hitesh Patel, chief officer of Halton CAB said: "Far too many of our clients are having stress piled onto unfairness as a result of this system. I'm worried that the early signs since changes were made have only made a bad situation worse.

"Since the new reassessment hurdle was introduced, we've helped people in Widnes and Runcorn deal with 133 issues about it. There is a real danger that people who are fully entitled to support are denied it for at least an extra two weeks as a result of these changes.

"I'm pleased to be a part of this new campaign to get the problems sorted out for our clients. This needs to be a joint effort between ministers, officials, charities and health professionals to make sure sick and disabled people get quick and fair treatment out of this system which right now is simply not working."

The work capability assessment, which determines people's eligibility for ESA, has been criticised for failing to deliver accurate decisions which are estimated to have cost taxpayers more than £60 million.

Since October, anyone who is at first refused support will have to wait an additional two weeks whilst their initial application is reassessed, during which time they will potentially be left without any income.

The new Citizens Advice 'Fit for Work' campaign, launched today, calls on ministers to ensure independent medical evidence is considered by officials before making an initial assessment about a person's fitness for work.

They also want to make sure applicants for ESA are not left without financial support during the new, extra reassessment.

They want assessors to be fined where they are shown to have made an incorrect medical assessment.