Incapacity benefit reform ‘will leave some disabled people worse off’

The replacement of incapacity benefit by the employment and support allowance today will leave some disabled people worse off and fail to improve their employment prospects, campaigners have warned.

The Department for Work and Pensions is aiming to get 1 million people off incapacity benefits by 2015 through the new system, which will provide return-to-work programmes and personalised employment advice.

From today, most new claimants will face a work capability assessment (WCA) from a health professional to determine their ability to work or engage in “work-related activity”, which includes work-focused interviews.

Those deemed to have “limited capability to work” will receive up to £84.50 and be required to accept work-related support; others deemed incapable of work will receive up to £89.50 without conditions.

Disabled will be worse off

However, the Disability Alliance hit out at the allowance, claiming the rates were lower than current levels of incapacity benefit. It said the freeze on employment and support allowance levels proposed in the welfare reform green paper, published in July,may force some disabled people into poverty.

According to Mind, the new system would not improve the employment prospects of people with mental health problems, of whom an estimated 200,000 leave jobs and start claiming benefits each year.

Those not deemed to be eligible for either form of ESA after the work-capability assessment will be transferred to job seeker’s allowance, under which they would receive less support to find work.

‘No obligation on employers’

Mind warned that this could be the fate of many claimants, “placing all the emphasis on the individual to find work”.  Yet, it said, there was no obligation on employers to actively recruit people with mental health problems.

A Mind survey today revealed that of 279 of their website users, one in three had been sacked or forced to resign after disclosing a mental health problem, while 58% had to leave a job due to lack of mental health support.

Backing from Rethink

Fellow charity Rethink backed Mind’s view that the new allowance would change little without further initiatives to tackle discrimination by employers.

From 2010, existing IB claimants will be transferred to the new system.

Related articles

Employment and support allowance – how it will work

Welfare green paper lacks emphasis on support, charities warn

More information

Welfare reform – information on Department for Work and Pensions website

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