Memorandum submitted by Alan Tyler
Much useful work has been done in
creating a suggested framework for reform and a programme for
action but a lot of the momentum appears to have been lost due
to the wholesale changes in the ministerial and departmental teams
at the Department for Work and Pensions. This has proved frustrating
for external partners looking to help move this initiative on.
Pathways to Work (together with other
earlier initiatives) has provided valuable lessons and the new
proposals for Incapacity Benefit reform appear generally sound.
The method of assessment to establish
claimants' work capabilities will be important, in particular
the assessment of variable health conditions.
Mental health conditions produce
perceptional problems which should be addressed by education but
are best handled as part of a single integrated assessment and
services system where there is scope for each health condition
to have its own special considerations rather than being singled
out for special attention.
Employer engagement will be critical.
1. In late 2004/early 2005, the government
produced a series of key documents setting out its plans in these
"Building Capacity for Work:
A UK Framework for Vocational Rehabilitation" (October 2004)
"Improving the Life Chances
of Disabled People" (January 2005)
"DWP Five Year Strategy"
2. These together, whilst still representing
work in progress, created a comprehensive action plan which so
many of those involved in this process have been looking for in
order to address the key issues and provide a framework for everyone
to assist in achieving both a better benefit structure and improvements
in services to get more people back to work.
3. Unfortunately, since the election and
the appointment of a new ministerial team, very little progress
is evident. The date for the Green Paper has been put back by
a minimum of three months and depending upon its nature, we could
be looking at very little tangible progress during the course
4. Few issues can have generated input from
so many widely different perspectives whilst still achieving a
remarkable general consensus on the way forward. Thus this delay
has been frustrating for all.
5. The following paragraphs address some
of the questions posed by the Select Committee:
6. Reforms to Incapacity Benefits
Feedback so far released by DWP indicates
that the Pathways to Work pilots have proved far more successful
than any previous initiative:
More people are being returned to
There is positive feedback from both
claimants and Personal Advisers.
Claimants have responded to:
being treated as individuals;
receiving help services
tailored to their needs;
dealing with a single access
being engaged not coerced;
incentives that ensure
that work pays;
However, a more comprehensive review of the
pilots is still awaited and much more needs to be done to engage
employers and insurers more effectively in these initiatives.
It should also be recognised that the successes being achieved
with new and short term claimants will be more difficult to achieve
with long term claimants.
The proposed new Incapacity Benefit
structure is certainly a great improvement on the current system
and much simpler to understand. Either a dual benefit structure
or a single "ladder" approach, describing all the stages
from home care to full time employment appears workable. The assessment
process to determine which benefit stream people qualify for will
be key and must be seen to be fairly assessing people on merit.
Incentives based on conditionality will work but equally, those
not seen as capable of work at the time of assessment must feel
protected but not written off by the system and be kept in touch
with services that can improve their lifestyle whilst maintaining
the possibility of a return to work at a later date. The proposals
should help to reduce fraud and error levels but to what degree
I cannot speculate.
7. The Future Rollout of Pathways to Work
8. Support for Sick and Disabled People to
Move Back into Work
The assessment of those with variable
conditions represents one of the biggest challenges to the assessment
process and in providing suitable work opportunities for those
affected in this way.
All health conditions pose their
own special problems but there are also similarities between them
which require much the same action. With mental health the problem
is often one of perception as the presence of such conditions
and evidence of recovery is frequently less visible to others
(eg employers and work colleagues) compared to physical conditions.
Thus diagnosis of the cause of the symptoms may be delayed and
evidence of recovery more difficult to demonstrate, leading to
suspicion about the risk of recurrence. In this respect, there
are similarities with variable conditions. Whilst understanding
of these conditions needs to be improved, to single out mental
health for special treatment may be counter-productive and it
would be better to treat mental health as just one aspect of a
common rehabilitation programme which has its own special educational,
diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitation considerations alongside
those applying to other conditions.
Condition Management Programmes appear
to be working well and should be of great help but a wider educational
programme for employers and indeed, health professionals, is also
9. The Role of the Private and Voluntary Sectors
There are many organisations in both
sectors willing and able to assist the development of these reforms
and the quicker the promised framework can be established, the
faster and more effectively the reform programme can be introduced.
The engagement of employers will
be vital and much can also be achieved in conjunction with insurers.
3 October 2005