Sixty second interview with John Knight, head of policy at Leonard Cheshire
Unlike the current system, the proposed new benefits, rehabilitation support allowance and disability and sickness allowance, will differentiate between people with severe conditions and those with potentially more manageable conditions.
People with less serious conditions, who will receive the rehabilitation support allowance, will get a basic benefit at job seeker allowance level – about £55. They can top this up to more than the current long-term incapacity benefit rate (£74 per week) by engaging in work-focused interviews and in activities that will help them return to work such as training and basic skills.
Do you have any concerns about the proposed system?
I’m worried that it [the personal capability assessment] might be tightened so fewer people will be deemed as not capable of work and that some disabled people might be forced into work that may not be in their best interest.
My other worry is that it [the personal capability assessment] adopts the medical approach to disability but I’m in favour of the social one. What I want them to do is look at society as a whole so when they are looking at an individual they must also be looking at the existing levels of discrimination in the work place and the available support to enable people to work such as the availability of accessible social care services. At the end of the day, if you can’t get out of bed before 11am then what is the point of having all these employment support programmes?”
The government says that under the proposals people with severe illnesses and disabilities who are unable to work, who will get the disability and sickness allowance, will get more money than they do now. What are your views on this?
Obviously we welcome that!
The government has also announced that it is expanding the Pathways to Work pilot schemes, which help people on incapacity benefit back into employment, to cover 900,000 people within two years. What do you think about the schemes?
It’s a very good scheme because it is an integrated scheme that brings together a whole range of agencies and it tailors support to an individual’s specific needs. It’s very successful, in areas where they run the pilots, twice as many people on incapacity benefit are getting jobs compared to those areas where they don’t.
Also people that are deemed unable to work [by the personal capability assessment which is used to determine this] aren’t written off as they can opt to go into the pathways to work if they wish at a later stage [when their condition has improved].
Do you have any other more general worries?
What I don’t want is for disabled people to be coerced to take jobs simply for the sake of taking jobs because disabled people we will end up doing inappropriate work that worsens their physical disability and damages their self-confidence if they are put into jobs that they can’t do. The actual job must be linked carefully to the person’s capability.
The government is also planning to put employment advisors in GP’s surgeries? Do you think this could lead to people being deterred from going to the doctors at all?
No. I’m in favour of integrated approaches. I would like to see social services inside GP surgeries. People get absolutely ground down by having to traipse between one agency or another.