Select Committee on Social Security Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 144)

MONDAY 10 MAY 1999


Mr Dismore

  140. Can I ask you about take-up of benefits and to what extent take-up is a problem for people with disabilities?

  (Mr Wood) It is a big problem. The evidence I saw said that something like a third of disabled people who were probably entitled to Disability Living Allowance were not claiming the benefit. So there are significant underclaims, for all the reasons we know. Getting information is so difficult. Anecdotally, I have just been supporting a young person, a 17 year old, who was moving out of home and you cannot imagine the number of agencies you have to approach, none of whom give you information. You have to know what it is you are looking for, nobody is saying, "Yes, you could be entitled to income support or JSA", you have to go and say, "What does JSA do? What does income support do? How can I qualify?" The onus is very much on you. I would hope if these gateways work the onus would be very much the other way round and it will be seeking to ensure people are getting the benefits.

  141. So the gateway is one way in which we can potentially overcome that particular problem?

  (Mr Wood) I think the idea of a gateway to give people information about the benefits system is really a good idea because it is far too difficult, not just for disabled people but for all people, to get information about what is around in the system. There are so many different agencies running the benefits—you have the local authority, you have everybody doing it. If you can put all that in one place, with trained experts who can go through a check list and you can come out and know what you are entitled to and you fill one form in and it goes to one place—brilliant! Similarly with work.

Ms Atherton

  142. I would be quite interested in that!

  (Mr Betteridge) We hope that the data which comes out of the new periodic review inquiry in the next six months, when that is reviewed in October, will feed into some of the information that is given to people attending gateway interviews, so that the problem can be tackled at source if you like. Why are people who are entitled to a higher rate of Disability Living Allowance actually not getting it?

Mr Dismore

  143. One other question I would like to come back to, and that is the contrast of the two things you are trying to do through the gateway process. On the one hand you are trying to establish entitlement to benefits, on the other hand you are trying to help people back to work. Do you think it is possible to look at both those things at the same time effectively?

  (Mr Wood) It seems a paradox to me. I cannot work out where there is not going to be a degree of threat, intentional or not. There is bound to be a feeling of threat. We are back to the first question really, for the reasons we said the Benefit Integrity Project has done massive damage to disabled people's confidence in the benefits system.

  144. Are we not in danger of concentrating on what people cannot do rather than looking at what they can do at the same time? If we do not do both those things, are we not missing half the equation?

  (Mr Wood) Is not one's claim for, say, incapacity benefit based on not being able to work but at the same time you have to show why you might be able to work? That does not seem to me to be a good balance at all. It is always reasonable at some point for somebody to explore other possibilities at the same time.
  (Mr Betteridge) One of the difficulties that a person having a personal capacity assessment may experience when they start to take do an all-work test is that a lot of disabled people can work in certain circumstances, can work for certain amounts of time in a week, can work full-time for certain periods and then cannot work, and when you have first principles emanating from Government saying, "Work for those who can, support for those who cannot", it is not as simple as that.

  Chairman: Thank you, gentlemen, very much indeed. Perhaps I should explain before we close that the Employment Sub Committee side of this Joint Committee went to Australia and we saw their single gateway or "centre link", as I think they called it, and it seemed to us that the motivation of it was to put the whole of new technology and every possible source of information and advice at the disposal of the client to achieve just what you have said, a greater independence in them taking their own decisions. That is what excited us about this process and we would hope by the evidence you have given us this afternoon and by the continuing evidence we hope to take we may be able to nudge the Government a bit in that direction. Thank you.

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