Government Changes To Incapacity Benefit
Needed to 'address burgeoning costs of £13bn a year' says Angie Bray
The coalition's crackdown on sickness benefits is getting under way in earnest with ministers suggesting half a million claimants could be ready to start work immediately.
The first letters are being sent out asking some of the 1.6 million incapacity benefit claimants to submit to reassessments.
By the end of the week 7,000 people will have been contacted, rising to 10,000 a week by the end of April, with the first assessments happening in June.
The move follows the publication of final results from trial assessments in Burnley and Aberdeen, which ministers said confirmed almost a third of claimants were fit for work while a further 38% had the potential to work with the right support.
Of the 1,626 people assessed in the two trial areas, a third had been found fit for work straight away and transferred to Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), 38% were assessed as able to work with the right support, while 30% have been placed in the support group for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) - which means they will receive unconditional support and not be expected to look for work.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, employent minister Chris Grayling said: "The trial results show that, if replicated nationally, we could expect around half a million people to be found fit for work over the next three years as the reassessment exercise is completed."
Another 600,000 of the 1.6 million people who will be tested are likely to be able to find work "with the right support", he added.
But disability charities say many of the assessments are unfair. Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of the disability charity Scope said, "If the government is serious about getting disabled people into work, and not just off Incapacity Benefit, they need to introduce an assessment that's fit for purpose, that is one that assesses people's needs accurately and holistically, and enables people to access the right support, so they can get the job they want and deserve."
Private companies will be used to help people off benefits and back into work, and rewarded with fees of up to £14,000 for each individual case. Anybody ruled fit for work who is currently on an invalidity benefit (IB) will be placed on the less generous JSA.