Disabled to face further welfare reform
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has announced radical reform for sickness benefits that the government hopes will encourage up to 1 million more people into work. Changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the assessment of people claiming sickness benefits are part of a package of announcements that have been made public today. The package aims to shrink the ‘disability employment gap’ - the difference between the employment rate for people with disabilities and those without - by taking many people off benefits and expecting them to move into work.
In his speech, he said: “I have said many times that I believe work is the best route out of poverty. It provides purpose, responsibility, and role models for children. As a one nation government, we believe that everyone in the country should have the chance to benefit from the security and sense of purpose that comes with being in work."
According to an analysis of figures from the Office of National Statistics, 48% of disabled people are in work compared with 78% of the general population.
Mr Duncan Smith has seen the number of people on Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) fall by almost 700,000, nearly halving the figure. However, the numbers on ESA have remain high at more than 2.5 million a fall of about 90,000.
He added that: “ESA may have been designed with the right intentions, but at its heart lay a fundamental flaw. It is a system that decides you are either capable of work or you are not. This needs to change.
“We need to look at the assessment we use for ESA and I want to look at changing it so that it is better geared towards helping people prepared for and into what work they may be capable of, rather than parking them beyond work.”
As part of the planned package of changes, a new Fit for Work Service is being introduced, which will involve GPs. The new service asks claimants what support they can be given to help them keep their jobs. The Department of Work and Pensions will be working with the Department of Health so that GPs routinely send people to Fit for Work to get their Return to Work Plans.
In response to the speech, Turn2us commented: “The most vulnerable people are facing the ordeal of cuts brought in by welfare reforms and climbing living costs that show no sign of slowing down. Further welfare reform will undoubtedly add to the concerns to those that are already struggling financially.
"We advise people unsure of what support is available to visit www.turn2us.org.uk to check their latest benefits entitlements, as well as making themselves aware of what additional support might be available through charitable grants.”
Kate Green MP
Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People said: “Ministers need to focus on providing tailored support for disabled people who can work in order to help them do so. Cutting benefits of those who aren’t able to work, such as those with Parkinson’s or cancer, is punishing sick and disabled people for the government’s own failures.”
Read the Ill, Injured or Disabled section of the Turn2us website has information about ways you might be able to get help. This includes information on Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance
Publication: date: 25 August 2015