Benefits change will deepen exclusion

    Government proposals to replace incapacity benefit with two
    separate benefits that differentiate between people were branded as
    a “mistake” this week.

    Kate Stanley, head of social policy at the Institute for Public
    Policy Research, warned that considerable energy and resources were
    likely to be used up in “patrolling the border” between the two
    benefits and argued for a single one to be created.

    Under government plans, people with severe conditions would
    receive disability and sickness allowance and qualify for more
    money than they do now. Those with more manageable conditions would
    receive a lower-level rehabilitation support allowance which could
    be topped up by engaging in activities that would help them to
    return to work.

    But Stanley, who was speaking at an IPPR lecture, proposed
    instead an “earnings replacement allowance”, available to anyone
    who satisfied the eligibility criteria of having a disability or a
    sickness that significantly limited their ability to work.

    Under this, clients would agree a set of actions with advisers
    which would be mandatory, with incentives attached. These could
    range from rest and recuperation through to job searching and,
    according to the
    IPPR and mental health charity Rethink, would be “particularly
    appropriate” for people with mental health problems, many of whom
    want to work.

    Stanley warned that the government’s plans could lead to
    increasing numbers of people drifting onto the disability and
    sickness allowance where it may be more difficult to stop them
    becoming socially excluded.

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