Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by Alan Tyler after the publication of the Welfare Reform Green Paper

SUMMARY

    —    The proposals in the green paper provide a sound way forward for the reform of Incapacity Benefit and the services that accompany it.

    —    Faith in the reformed PCA procedure will be important if claimants are to be engaged effectively by the new benefit proposals.

    —    There will be concerns over whether sufficient resources will be available to roll out Pathways to Work nationally by 2008.

    —    More attention needs to be paid to how other parties such as employers and insurers can be engaged.

    —    Long term proposals for integrating Disability Living Allowance are unclear.

    —    How a satisfactory evidence base and a standards and accreditation system for service providers will be delivered is unclear.

MAIN TEXT

  1.  Much of the green paper's content is praiseworthy and will gain support across the wide spectrum of organisations involved in the reform programme:

    —    Proposals for the new Employment and Support Allowance are a sensible balance of rights and responsibilities, benefit payments and services, conditional on the participation of the claimant. Extended linking rules and greater scope for voluntary and part-time work will provide further encouragement for claimants to engage in work related activity and reductions in benefit for non-compliance with action plans is a sensible consequence.

    —    The decision to "encourage" participation from existing IB claimants, thereby enabling them to gain access to a higher level of benefit, is a sensible one and can be reviewed at a later date as the effectiveness of the new proposals and the accompanying change in culture that this hopes to generate can be measured.

    —    Confirmation that Pathways to Work will be nationwide by 2008 with the full involvement of the private and voluntary sectors is welcome.

    —    Simplification of Statutory Sick Pay rules will be welcomed by employers.

    —    Rule changes for JobSeeker's Allowance to address the flow onto Incapacity Benefit are also sensible.

    —    Changes to Housing Benefit and city initiatives targeting disadvantaged groups are consistent with the IB proposals and the long term aim of a simplified benefit system accessed via a single gateway is praiseworthy.

  2.  The success of these new proposals will rely heavily on:

    —    The effectiveness of the new PCA test in accurately assessing claimants' work capabilities.

    —    Whether the PCA can be delivered within the 12 week period envisaged.

    —    Whether the necessary resources are in place to provide return to work services nationwide by 2008.

    —    To what extent other interested parties can be engaged (see point 5 below).

  3.  In my earlier submission I made the point that much momentum with these reforms had been lost since early 2005 due to wholesale changes to the ministerial and departmental teams at the Department for Work and Pensions and there appears nothing substantial in these proposals that were not in place a year ago.

  4.  Bearing in mind the long term aim for a simple benefit system accessed via a single gateway, it is perhaps disappointing that the other major sickness related benefit assessing people's support needs, Disability Living Allowance, has not been tackled at the same time. I can understand that to do so might have resulted in further delay and that progress on IB and other benefits could be viewed as a reasonable first stage but some indication of the government's intentions to bring DLA into a more co-ordinated benefit structure would be beneficial.

  5.  The successful implementation of these proposals will depend heavily on the co-operation of other parties and require both the "top down" support of representative bodies and "bottom up" initiatives at grass roots level in order to effect change and identify "champions" who can lead and exemplify that change:

    —    The October 2004 publication "A UK Framework for Vocational Rehabilitation" set out proposals for a Steering Group to enable stakeholders to contribute but it is not clear whether this is still proposed and how this level of engagement will be achieved.

    —    Whilst proposals for both "top down" and "bottom up" approaches are evident for health professionals, this is less obvious for other groups with an important role to play, such as employers and insurers.

    —    Employers will welcome better information on absence management and some of the benefit changes proposed but may need more than that to become fully engaged.

    —    The insurance focus remains stubbornly on Employers' Liability Insurance but this covers only injuries and diseases sustained as a result of a person's work. These relate to only a small percentage of workplace sickness absence as opposed to the common health conditions that result in the great majority of IB and other insurance claims. A wider range of insurance providers needs to be engaged (including Group Income Protection and Group Medical Insurance writers) and indeed, it may be a good opportunity to re-think private insurance propositions against the background of public sector reform.

  6.  The publication "A UK Framework for Vocational Rehabilitation" also proposed Working Groups responsible for Research (in order to establish a firm evidence base for the services being offered) and Standards and Accreditation (so that successful service providers could readily be recognised by employers, insurers and patient groups). Both these factors are important and it is not clear where these proposals now lie.

Alan Tyler

Health and Welfare Business Consultant



 
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