Memorandum submitted by Disability Employment
The Disability Employment Coalition is a network
of organisations that work together to promote and achieve greater
inclusion of disabled people in the world of work.
DEC was formed in the-mid 1990s to raise awareness
of the campaign on employment issues affecting disabled people.
Member organisations include: Action for Blind People, BASE, Disability
Alliance, Leonard Cheshire, Mencap, Mind, National Federation
of the Blind, National League of the Blind and Disabled, Papworth,
RADAR, Remploy, Royal National Institute of the Blind, Royal National
Institute for Deaf People, Scope, Shaw Trust and TUC.
The Disability Employment Coalition (DEC) welcomes
the Committee's decision to set up this inquiry into the Government's
programme to get more disabled people into work and reform incapacity
benefit. The reduction of the number of disabled people who live
in poverty and feel unable to play a meaningful role in society
is dependent on the success of this strategy.
However, DEC also reflects the fears and concerns
of members that the impending process may not be helpful to achieving
our aims of full social and economic inclusion for people with
disabilities unless issues are properly thought through and developed
There are signs that the new benefit could be
complex because of the dual benefit approach. The complications
inherent in the current system may only exist because of the DWP's
own (Personal Capability Assessment) test. If the DWP feel it
is too easy to access IB, they should consider whether it is the
test that needs changing rather than making a blanket change to
the benefit. We are also hoping that the new benefit will not
be contributory and that there will be an adequate appeals mechanism.
It would be hoped that JC+ Staff will have the
knowledge and skills to help disabled people back to work. Welfare
rights teams in DEC member organisations often carry out calculations
as to whether their clients will be better off in work and due
to the low, only £20 income disregard for housing benefit
and difficulties that the Inland Revenue have had in administering
Working Tax Credit does not encourage disabled people to return
We don't believe that it is always easy to distinguish
between those who are able to return to work and those who cannot.
Whilst we welcome the fact that the DWP are supporting some disabled
people find work it is also important to realise that some people
will not be able to work. It is also important that the reform
programme doesn't concentrate on those thought to be more nearly
work ready at the expense of those who are further from the Labour
market but who still want to work and take their place in society.
RNIB believe for example, that the fact that
blind people are automatically exempt from the capability test
means that they are simply written off.
Even where two people are of the same age and
have the same condition the DWP needs to consider the different
work experiences of the people concerned.
We believe that the fraud in the current Incapacity
Benefit system is currently very low despite press/media reports
to the contrary.
Contrary to perceived wisdom the numbers on
incapacity benefit are also falling.
The 2001 Benefit Review of Incapacity Benefit,
which found that fraud levels were so low the review team did
not have enough examples to measure them properly, and had to
rely on an estimate instead:
"Due to the small number of confirmed fraud
cases found during the review, it is not possible to produce a
robust central estimate of the total annual value of benefit overpaid
due to fraud for short-term Incapacity Benefit and long-term Incapacity
Benefit. However, an indicative upper limit has been produced.
It is estimated that the amount of overpayment is less than £19
million, ie less than 0.3% of all expenditure on cases in receipt
of these rates of IB. Similarly, it is estimated that the percentage
of all IBST (H) and IBLT cases that are fraudulent is less than
The figure of less than 1% should be compared
with the National Audit Offices estimates of Income Support fraud
(5.8% of spending) and Jobseeker's Allowance fraud (9.0%).
DEC is concerned that the reforms will not in
fact address the main areas of concern for those on Incapacity
Benefit. If there are problems with those in receipt of Incapacity
Benefit who others may feel shouldn't have qualified perhaps it
is the current test (Personal Capability Assessment) that needs
to be amended rather than introducing a new system.
Alternatively in the experience of DEC members
the Pathways to Work Pilots have been generally successful and
perhaps they should be rolled out and extended rather than look
for a wholesale change to Incapacity Benefit processes and payments.
DEC therefore feels that the proposed "wholesale"
reform may be a step too far with only short term results and
suggest that a steady and progressive reform over a long period
with a particular emphasis on investment in support for disabled
people who want to work as the first priority would achieve a
much longer lasting result of social and economic inclusion for
In our members experience most disabled people
would rather demonstrate their independence and be in work earning
a decent wage rather than being dependent on benefits.
The headline figures mask the fact that some
groups face extreme discrimination in the employment market. For
example on 27% of blind and partially sighted people of working
age are in employment and the figure for those on the autistic
spectrum and with mild and moderate learning difficulties is only
10%. These figures are not because disabled people do not want
to work. Instead it is because of society's and employers' attitude
to recruitment, proper support systems within the work place and
job retention, limited understanding/knowledge and the lack of
investment in such support processes as Access to Work.
DEC welcomes and supports the resolution passed
by this year's (2005) Trades Union Congress which calls for three
measures to support more disabled people gaining and retaining
employment and believes that the DWP should act on these three
areas as they will be active measures to both reduce the number
of people being forced on to IB and enable more people with disabilities
and a serious illness to access work:
Many disabled people with a new or
changed impairment lose their jobs unnecessarily each year and
may go onto Incapacity Benefit. We believe that it makes far more
sense to catch this group before they become unemployed, ensuring
that the right support, re-training and rehabilitation is in place
to allow them to stay in work. Disability Leave is a scheme that
we would like to see established to achieve this goal, enabling
newly disabled people, and those whose impairments change, to
retain their employment, through providing a limited period for
rehabilitation or retraining. Disability Leave, we believe, is
the right initiative for addressing the tendency of people who
become disabled while at work to lose their jobs.
More funding and publicity for Access
to Work, this call is backed up by the Disability Employment Coalition's
report Access to Work for Disabled People. This report showed
that in 2002-03 expenditure on the scheme was around £44
million, helping a projected 36,006 out of a potential 1.02 million.
With a publicity budget of a mere £37,500 a year it is no
wonder 74% of employers have never heard of the scheme and the
British Chamber or Commerce calls the Access to Work Scheme "One
of the Best Kept Secrets of Government."
Allowing employment tribunals to
order reinstatement and reengagement in disability discrimination
cases would also help increase the number of disabled people in
employment. Unlimited compensation is of little use if you will
never work again and forcing employers to take back disabled people
would reduce the Incapacity Benefit bill.
GP's potentially have a significant impact on
the experience an individual has during the benefit consideration
process. For example, the knowledge and understanding a GP has
of autism is necessary factor to a successful outcome for an individual
with autism. An NAS survey, "GPs on Autism", 2003, found
that many GPs were not sufficiently equipped to recognise the
diagnostic symbols for autism. 42% of GPs said they did not have
sufficient information to make an informed assessment about the
likelihood of a patient having autism. This underlines the importance
of training not only for GPs but all the professionals involved
in the process. Consideration could be given to involving other
professionals who do have a close relationship with the individual
and who have an understanding of the impact their condition has
on their lives.
In DWP's five year plan it stated that "Health
professionals need to start from the point of view that getting
people back to work is likely to benefit their long term health."
This ambition by DWP actually reinforces the need to take account
of the fact that many of the people on incapacity benefit will
have a lifelong disability.
DEC is concerned that the new system potentially
gives huge amounts of power to first level JC+ Staff who have
not received adequate disability equality training. Are JC + front
line staffs really competent to judge whether someone still undergoing
chemotherapy or some other serious illness should be looking for
As an example the NAS recently undertook research
into the role of Disability Employment Advisers. This showed while
86% of DEAs replied that they had supported clients diagnosed
with an ASD only 33% felt they had sufficient knowledge to support
clients with an ASD to find work. The report concluded that DEAs
want and need more training about autism if they are to be able
to support people with autism to find and retain work. The DWP/JC+
efficiencies agenda is only likely to make the problem worse.
This is a major area of concern for DEC members.
Negative stories about how individuals are treated when in interviews
regarding a possible return to work are all too common and have
done nothing to improve levels of confidence in the return to
Care must be taken to ensure adequate resources
are provided both through JC+ and any other providers of the service.
Processes should be developed that are high on quality and on
achieving lasting solutions and care must be taken to ensure short
term numerical targets do not drive the reform process.
Achieving sustainable and long lasting work
opportunities are essential merely moving people from benefit
into work for a short time only to find themselves unemployed
again fairly quickly will solve nothing and in the long term will
make our aim of achieving full social and economic inclusion and
independence very difficult.
DEC also feels that in reforming the Incapacity
Benefit process Government needs to invest in the processes and
programmes needed to achieve the levels of inclusion we all feel
is necessary in a fair and just society.
This must mean not only providing reasonable
and flexible routes to the regular labour market but also through
increased training and preparation for work processes and through
the expansion of all specialist programmes such as Workstep.
DEC believes very strongly that a spectrum or
continuum of routes/ programmes and/or processes needs to be established
which allows a personal development programme to be agreed with
every individual who wants to access the world of work.
DEC does not limit its thinking only to the
general labour market and believes that social /supported enterprises
will play an important part as well in achieving greater social
and economic independence for individuals.
We urge the Select Committee to particularly
call for greater individualisation of routes to work with the
individual disabled person at the centre of all actions and policies.
Reform will only work effectively if disabled people feel that
the system is working for them not against them.
Ray Fletcher OBE
3 October 2005