Memorandum submitted by RADAR
1. RADAR is the leading disability rights
campaigning organisation and a network of pan-disability organisations
and individuals run by and for disabled people. Our vision is
of a society where human difference is routinely anticipated,
expertly accommodated and positively celebrated.
2. This RADAR position paper has been prepared
in advance of the Government's plans for Incapacity Benefit (IB)
reform to be published as a Green Paper in Autumn 2005.
DWP FIVE YEAR
3. The original proposals for IB reform
were detailed in the Department for Work and Pensions five-year
strategy. The strategy outlines a system whereby IB is split into
two separate benefits: potentially called Rehabilitation Support
Allowance and Disability and Sickness Allowance. It is anticipated
that the two allowances would be paid at two different rates,
a lower rate for the former and a higher rate for the latter.
Both would be paid at a higher rate than IB at present.
4. Those with "manageable conditions"
would be placed on the Rehabilitation Support Allowance, where
there would be a focus on being supported into work. There would
be a requirement to undertake Work Focused Interviews and work-related
activity to prepare for, and move closer to, the labour market.
These claimants would receive more than the current long-term
rate, but if they refused to engage, they may return to the holding
5. Those with the "most severe health
conditions or impairments" would be placed on the Disability
and Sickness Allowance. This would be paid at a higher rate than
the Rehabilitation Support Allowance. There would be some requirement
to undertake Work Focused Interviews and encouragement to engage
in employment related activity where possible. These claimants
would therefore be able to access programmes and incentives to
return to work.
6. The Personal Capability Assessment would
remain the route by which claimants are assessed. However, the
five-year strategy explains that it would be coupled with "a
fuller assessment of potential future work capacity".
7. It is anticipated that implementation
of the proposals for new claimants will happen by 2008.
8. RADAR supports reforming the welfare
system in such a way that it encourages claimants to be active
rather than passive participants. Changing the language from "Incapacity"
will also encourage both Personal Advisers and individuals to
focus on what claimants can do rather than what they cannot.
Personal Capability Assessment
9. It is unclear from the proposals outlined
in the five-year strategy how claimants would be placed onto one
or other benefit through the Personal Capability Assessment (PCA).
Assessment is a complex area that will require clear and detailed
exposition in the Green Paper.
10. RADAR emphasises that disability does
not mean "cannot work". Neither the PCA, the "future
work capacity" assessment, nor the two different benefits,
should encourage that idea. The PCA should focus on informing
the process towards work. Beginning the employment focus at this
stage is a crucial step in changing the welfare system to encourage
active participation. The "future work capacity" assessment
must account for the fact that capacity will change depending
on the amount of support received and work-related activity undertaken.
11. Currently, certain groups of disabled
people are exempt from the PCA based on type of disability. However,
people from those groups do work. Further to disability not meaning
"cannot work", a reformed welfare system should be focus
on individuals' abilities, and not make any assumptions about
capability based simply on broad-brush categories of impairment.
Therefore, particular disabilities should not automatically qualify
for the higher or the lower rate.
12. The PCA claim form needs to be revised
to enable people with non-visible impairments and mental health
conditions to better represent their abilities and needs. The
current claim form only has one page related to mental health.
Given the steep increase in IB claims due to stress and mental
health, this is imperative.
13. RADAR is concerned that the Disability
and Sickness Allowance will not provide the same level of support
for moving into work as the Rehabilitation and Support Allowance.
A division into "can work" and "cannot work"
on the basis of rate of benefit entitlement is a false division.
All those who want to engage in work-related activities and move
closer to the labour market should be able to do so. IB claims
are densely clustered in disadvantaged areas, where provision
tends to be less complete and employment opportunities more scarce.
The temptation may be to encourage claimants to move onto Disability
and Sickness Allowance in order to counteract a lack of supply,
but this would be contrary to the aims of welfare reform. If the
demand in a particular area for a certain activity outweighs supply,
this must be catered for, ensuring that those on the Disability
and Sickness Allowance are not denied support.
14. Similarly, the temptation has always
been to move those who are already closest to the labour market
into employment. This is the most cost effective and quickest
way to reduce the claimant count. However, those with more complicated
or multiple needs should have the same level, if not greater,
support. Just because someone's needs are greater, it does not
mean that they have any less desire to enter the labour market,
or that they are less capable of undertaking employment.
15. If and when the two benefits are created,
the Government must focus targets on both those benefits. If the
targets focus solely on the Rehabilitation and Support Allowance,
the gap between those on the Disability and Sickness Allowance
and attaining employment may be increased, creating a disenfranchised
16. If those who do not engage in work-related
activity are potentially to be sanctioned, such activity must
be equally available in all areas. Although robust evaluation
of the Pathways to Work pilots is not yet available, the early
results are encouraging (up to a 44% off-flow in pilot areas during
Phase 1 in December 2003). RADAR instinctively believes that a
strong link between the Department of Health and the DWP, promoting
work as a therapeutic measure, is the right way forward. Therefore,
Pathways to Work, or a similar programme, is integral to the success
of IB reform and raising the employment rate of disabled people.
17. There should not be any sanctions for
those who have undertaken work-related activity, but have not
applied for any jobs. The mentioned clustering of IB claimants
occurs in disadvantaged areas where jobs are not necessarily easy
to come by. In areas where there is a large amount of competition
for scarce jobs, those who are already disadvantaged in the labour
market cannot be penalised. There may also be issues of confidence
or self-esteem that need to be overcome before somebody feels
able to apply for employment. The emphasis must be on assistance,
18. The reforms must account for the fact
that the prevalence of disability increases with age. The labour
market discriminates against both disabled people and older people.
Whilst RADAR welcomes the focus on disability rights and age discrimination
legislation, any reform of IB needs to recognise the difficulties
associated with entering the labour market as an older disabled
person. Older people may not be as willing to undertake work-related
activities if they have had bad experiences of employment in the
past. Therefore, any sanctions regime must relate positively to
the employment position of older disabled people. A welfare system
truly fit for the 21st century must remove the benefit straps
and pitfalls of the current system.
19. RADAR supports the proposals of raising
benefit rates, as benefits must reflect the true cost of living
for disabled people. However, simultaneously paying higher rates
and focusing on work-related activity may represent a paradox,
as a higher benefit rate increases the benefit trap. To counter
this effect, there should be a sliding scale of benefit payment,
means-tested by salary, after people have moved into work. The
better-off in work calculations currently carried out at Jobcentre
Plus would allow this to be implemented.
20. Currently, IB does not allow claimants
to work between five and 16 hours a week, and therefore discriminates
against those who are able to work more than half a day a week,
but less than part-time. It is also a disincentive to those who
want to move into work gradually or who are unlikely to ever be
able to work more than 16 hours a week due to the nature of their
impairment. It limits the ability of claimants to build and maintain
work skills and experience essential to gaining longer and more
permanent employment. This needs to be eliminated. A sliding scale
of payment should aim to achieve this.
The Bigger Picture
21. The reform proposals are backed up by
proposals to engage employers in the health, safety, rehabilitation
and retention of employees; involving GPs and the NHS in the process
of rehabilitation, recognising that work is a route back to health;
improving disability rights and the rights of older people; piloting
individual budgets for disabled people to encourage independence;
and rolling out Pathways to Work. All of these strands are equally
important in getting disabled people into employment, and must
be pursued with equal vigour.
22. RADAR strongly supports the Government's
joint targets of creating a welfare system fit for the 21st century,
and raising the employment rate to 80%. In order to fulfil the
latter, it is imperative that the former is achieved.
23. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity
to reform the welfare system. The concept of "cannot work"
must be swept away. The focus must be on active and not passive
participation. It is right that benefit rates, especially for
those with greater needs, reflect the true cost of living, but
that should not mean that people are consigned to a benefit without
support or one that labels them as "cannot work". The
concept that disabled people cannot work is rejected in almost
every other policy area.
24. RADAR believes that the reformed benefit,
and the associated support, should be available to all those currently
on IB. By only making the new benefit and support available to
future claimants, there is the risk of creating a further tier
in the Incapacity Benefit system, whereby existing claimants may
lose out on assistance as a result of the change.
25. To further avoid a tiered welfare system,
RADAR believes that the five to 16 hour issue must be eradicated,
and a sliding scale of support once a former claimant is in work
must be arranged.
26. Concurrent with IB reform, RADAR supports
the campaign to raise Disability Living Allowance to represent
the true cost of living for disabled people.
27. RADAR would also support any campaign
for the introduction of Statutory Disability Leave. Not only is
the low employment rate of disabled people a symptom of the current
IB system consigning people to a life of "cannot work",
it is also a reflection of the poor retention rates of those employees
who become disabled whilst in work.
28. Dividing IB into two different benefits
risks a lack of ability to move between the two. RADAR would support
the introduction of a single benefit, with two separate strands,
increasing the ability of people to move from one to the other,
encouraging a more evident path towards employment.
29 September 2005