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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