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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