Incapacity benefit to be at flat rate

    The Department for Work and Pensions is expected to announce a flat
    rate for incapacity benefit this week.

    Incapacity benefit is currently set at £56 a week in the first
    six months, rising to £66 a week and finally £74 after a
    year. Ministers want to remove any incentive for people to remain
    on the benefit indefinitely.

    But disability charity Leonard Cheshire warned that a “one-size
    fits all” approach could be “hugely damaging” to disabled people.
    Head of policy John Knight said: “Instead of benefiting from
    support when they need it most, claimants could end up being
    punished for being unable to find a job.”

    Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb criticised the current system as too
    “black and white”, calling for the introduction of a “partial
    capability benefit” that would allow people to do some paid work
    without becoming ineligible for benefits.

    The change follows a promise by the government last week of a
    national roll-out of the Pathways to Work pilot schemes, which have
    so far reduced claims on incapacity benefit by doubling the number
    of claimants finding jobs. By October 2006, 900,000 people – a
    third of all incapacity benefit claimants – will be covered by the
    scheme, which provides claimants with personal advisers,
    rehabilitation and a £40 per week credit on returning to work.

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