Disability campaigners have warned that the controversial Welfare Reform Bill, announced today in the Queen’s Speech, may fail in its aim to help disabled people into work and out of poverty.
Under the legislation, people receiving income support would be moved onto either jobseeker's allowance, if they are well, or the new employment and support allowance, if they are sick or disabled. The plans mean that the majority of disabled people would be required to actively seek work before receiving benefits.
People failing to turn up to appointments at job centres would also face benefit sanctions.
The government said that the measures would help to reduce the number of incapacity benefit claimants by one million and “provide equality” for disabled people by 2025.
Exclude people with learning disabilities
However, Mencap chief executive Mark Goldring said that the Bill would exclude people with learning disabilities from paid employment unless they were offered specialist support.
He said the charity was also "deeply concerned" that plans to pay providers of employment support services by results could "disadvantage disabled people with complex support needs who will take longer to make the transition to work and who may be more expensive to support".
Learning disabilities charity United Response also expressed concern over the announcement. Chief executive Su Sayer said that having a job could raise self-esteem for people with learning disabilities but continued: “However, employment rates for these groups remains low and as competition for jobs increases those furthest from the labour market will undoubtedly be the first to lose out, unless we take action.”
Mental health alliance
Four leading mental health organisations have joined forces to call on the government to carefully consider its welfare reform plans before pressing ahead. A joint statement issued by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Mind, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health and Rethink said that taking too punitive an approach to people with mental health problems would “seriously undermine” the government’s ambition to reduce the number of long-term unemployed.
It read: “In the last recession, many people with mental health problems were written off as unemployable when they lost their jobs. Another recession will undoubtedly put pressure on the government’s initiatives to support people in finding and holding on to jobs.”
Queen's Speech: Bills on welfare, equality and children's services
Single mothers and disabled people face benefit changes
DWP adviser calls for tougher benefits regime for lone parents
Mind warns benefit reform will not help mental health users into work
Welfare green paper lacks emphasis on support, charities warn
Lord McKenzie pledges to protect incapacity benefit claimants