Memorandum submitted by the London Borough
The Social Regeneration Unit is part of Newham
Council. The Unit works to reduce social and financial exclusion,
and maximise the incomes of people in Newham by:
promoting financial literacy; and
take-up of benefits and Tax Credits.
We have also been involved in a number of projects
to benefit Newham residents including:
Commissioning various specialist
advice services, including:
specialist into-work benefits
advisers working with Job Brokers.
SRU often contributes to policy consultations
about welfare policies, and we have a long established record
of influencing policies at the national and local level.
We are well placed to contribute
to this consultation because we work with both job brokers and
claimants representative groups.
1. Summary of our conclusions
We do not support a dual benefit
system which we feel would make the system less fair, more complicated,
and more prone to fraud and error.
Some disabled people, including those
with profound learning difficulties, need extra help to find work,
contracts for job brokers need to reflect this.
An extra test may be necessary but
it should not determine the level of benefit paid to disabled
claimants only the amount of support they need.
Some of the proposed reforms are
positive especially the into-work credit and earlier work focused
Disabled people who feel able to
work, but not for 16 hours a week should also get help and support
from the benefits system.
Contracts for Job Broker Services for disabled
people should be more flexible, less target driven and more focused
on the needs of disabled claimants.
2. Reforms to incapacity benefits
We are responding to this consultation as if
the proposals for dual benefits are still current though we understand
(from the DWP Forum) that may not be the case.
You cannot address complications
inherent in the current system by replacing a single benefit with
a dual benefit. We are concerned about the implications for advice
agencies already struggling with the effects of other recent reforms.
These reforms do not seem designed
to improve "incentives" to work, they seem to be more
about sticks than carrots. Other reforms, such as the into-work
credit would be a much more effective incentive.
It is impossible to distinguish between
incapacitated people who can or cannot work. There will always
be some with major disabilities who are determined to overcome
all barriers to work. Others may appear to have less serious disabilities
but feel unable to work.
It is likely that fraud and error
will increase, simply because there is an extra test and a more
The move to a dual benefit system
is not the best way to address problems with the current system.
What is required is more flexible, specialist help, genuinely
tailored to the needs of disabled people, plus guaranteed incentives
Earlier work focused interviews are
a good idea and so is the into-work credit.
The Permitted Work scheme needs to
be simplified, and earnings disregards for income related benefits
need to be raised to give incentives to those receiving them.
Working Tax Credit should be paid
to disabled people working under 16 hours.
3. The experience of sick and disabled people
Disabled people often complain that
the help available to them is not sufficiently tailored to their
needs, what is called specialist help is often the usual service
with a few extras.
They often feel that advisers are
more interested in getting them of benefit than helping them find
work suitable for them.
Schemes like the Access to Work scheme
and Work-step are badly publicised and difficult to access.
There are not enough Disability Employment
Some profoundly disabled people,
including people with learning difficulties, feel left out because
they are difficult to help and require more support and are less
likely to give the Job Broker a successful outcome.
The current earnings disregards for
income related benefits are a disincentive to those who want to
do some work but do not feel able to work 16 hours a week.
4. The role of the private and voluntary sectors
Contracts need to be more flexible,
and providers should be encouraged to work in partnership, for
example Job Brokers should not seek to provide benefits advice
directly themselves when a local advice agency could do a better
Targets for the disabled need to
be less target driven as this conflicts with the need to put the
needs of the individual claimant first.
27 July 2005