Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Disability Rights Commission after the publication of the
Welfare Reform Green Paper
1. In this submission we outline our initial
reaction to the Green Paper "A new deal for welfare: empowering
people to work" and clarify points from our evidence session
before the committee on 13 February 2006 (see paras 5, 14, 19
of this submission).
2. The Disability Rights Commission (DRC)
supports the overall direction of the Green Paper in emphasising
employment opportunities for disabled people. Positive and constructive
welfare reform has a significant role in facilitating disabled
people's participation. Given our concerns about the culture of
low expectations we believe that policy which is based on the
best available evidence is an important tool in promoting such
3. Since our original submission to the
Select Committee we have refined our citizenship approach into
three key principles, which we take in turn below.
Considerations of disability equality and human rights are relevant
to all three. Our response to the consultation will evaluate how
far the Green Paper meets our citizenship principles.
PRINCIPLE 1. A FAIRER
The role of employers
4. The Green Paper, and the occupational
health strategy published by the government last October, include
some measuressuch as Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) reformthat
may help to avoid people claiming Incapacity Benefit (IB) when,
with the right adjustments, they could have stayed in employment.
The DRC's research with the Health and Safety Executive, and Disability
Discrimination Act (DDA) case law, shows that an overcautious
approach to risk by occupational health services can result in
disabled people losing their job or failing to secure one, particularly
where mental health issues are concerned.
We will be making further proposals to government about employers'
role in recruitment and retention including reforming SSP to introduce
a more managed process consistent with DDA best practice. We also
welcome wider access to services such as Condition Management
Programmes including from people receiving SSP, which we had also
5. In our evidence session several employment
issues were mentioned, and summaries of DRC research are attached.
The pre-DDA quota system required private companies with more
than 20 employees to employ at least 3% of its workforce from
the disabled person's register. It was rarely enforced (only 10
prosecutions in 50 years), employers ignored it and few disabled
Access to Work can enable people with support needs to retain
employment, though there is apparently no information about its
take up in the Pathways pilots.
Its budget was almost £59 million in 2004-05, increasing
from £24.4 million in 1999-2000; on average, Access to Work
breaks even if the job duration is less than a year.
PRINCIPLE 2. A FLEXIBLE
Reforms to incapacity benefits
6. We were pleased that some of the suggestions
floated in the press (such as means-testing, time limits, mandatory
job search) do not appear to be included (though not explicitly
ruled out). Key aspects of the structure and conditions of the
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) only appear in broad outline,
so the precise implications are unclear.
7. We were pleased that the DRC will have
a role in advising on the new assessment processes, and we will
consider this further during the consultation period. However,
the Green Paper is unclear about the relationship between:
(a) assessment for eligibility for benefit
(the Personal Capability Assessment: PCA); and
(b) assessment of capacity to undertake work-related
activity, which may be similar to the Capability Report, which
has had a mixed response in Pathways pilot areas;,
(c) the underlying basis for the ESA, which
has to move beyond incapacity for work.
8. People can be placed in a contradictory
position under current incapacity rules so it is unclear how the
ESA will address this. Distinguishing between what is allowed
Currently people can risk losing
benefit when undertaking work-related activities, so the activities
listed on page 43 of the Green Paper need to be allowed under
ESA rules. Existing "permitted work" rules and linking
rules also need to be adapted for consistency with ESA eligibility.
Current disincentives (eg the number of hours worked by people
with learning difficulties)
need to be addressed as they can in effect deny people the chance
to participate, which may be contrary to human rights obligations.
Any activities that are required
(ie mandatory) need to meet key conditions such as high quality
adviser support and effectiveness.
On the basis of current evaluation evidence, DRC supports the
current package of rights and responsibilities in Pathways as
representing a reasonable balance of conditions with safeguards
(including pre-interview contact) and access to support. Any extended
conditions should be similarly balanced. Inappropriate exposure
to sanction would also raise human rights concerns.
9. The PCA exemptions will be replaced by
a new category of "reserved circumstances" based on
the severity of the impact of someone's condition on their ability
to function. Whilst this group will not be required to undertake
work-related activities the Green Paper is silent as to what kinds
of activities will be allowed:
Will the benefit rules allow
them, and existing incapacity benefits recipients, to participate
in a wide range of activities like volunteering, part time and
public appointments without facing financial penalty?
How easy will it be to move
between categories if appropriate?
10. A more rigorous approach is proposed
for existing claimants based on increasing the frequency of work
focussed interviews over time, regular PCAs and ad hoc case checks.
The latter needs to avoid the problems of the Benefit Integrity
Project and to balance correctness of benefit entitlement with
the need for sensitivity in review procedures.
11. An integrated contributory and means
tested benefit structure also raises questions, such as:
How many recipients are likely
to be means-tested, and what are their likely characteristics?
(for example under 25 year olds have a lower personal allowance
under Income Support than other adults but have the same basic
rate as older adults for contributory IB).
How will the different combinations
relate to the categories of "reserved circumstances"
receiving the additional support payment, and other ESA recipients
receiving work-related premiums? Assuming each of these could
receive either (a) means tested and contributory payments; (b)
only contributory (c) only means-tested payments, this suggests
six different combinations, rising to seven or eight when existing
claimants (including former invalidity benefit recipients) are
included. This presents a challenge to the longer term vision
of a simpler system.
What are the implications of
absorbing the disability premium into the new ESA structure for:
recipients of means-tested benefits
who receive the premium on grounds that are not currently related
to incapacity (such as receipt of DLA or registered blind);
other benefits like Housing Benefit;
recipients of other means-tested
benefits such as lone parents, carers and unemployed people not
on incapacity related benefits; and
learnings disregards and other rules
associated with receipt of the disability premium.
12. Around four in 10 current recipients
have mental or behavioural conditions so the ESA needs to be designed
around their needs. DWP research shows that only 37% of employers
said they would in future recruit people with mental illness.
PRINCIPLE 3. COMPREHENSIVE
Pathways roll out
13. Given the success of the current package,
the DRC was pleased with the commitment to roll out Pathways nationwide.
On the basis of current evidence, we believe that this suggests
it is the package as a whole which has driven this success; for
example mandatory work-focused interviews make a difference (in
engaging staff and recipients) but Pathways seems to deliver a
better work focus than in other integrated Jobcentre Plus districts.
14. The government announced that £360
million would be available to extend a Pathways approach nationally.
However there are different estimates of how much national roll
out of the existing package might cost; one estimate is £500
million, or £167 million a year.
In our evidence session we may have given the impression of another
figure£1 billion; this looks high, assuming that coverage
of a third of the countryalready allocatedcould
cost in the region of £125 million by 2007-08.
So for example if national roll out was likely to cost £500
million, some £125 million could be deducted from that figure
to account for spending already allocated. Given the different
estimates a breakdown of current and projected costs by the government
would greatly aid clarity on this matter. If the existing package
was changed, the cost of national rollout would of course also
15. Whatever the precise costing, if benefit
off-flows at the six month stage are running at around eight percentage
points and this is twice as high as initial expectations, we would
expect that the estimated costs of Pathways would be less than
originally envisaged. Provided the employment rates hold up, upfront
investment could result in savings in the longer term from reduced
benefit payments and increased revenue from income tax and national
The role of the private and voluntary sectors
16. The impact of using private and voluntary
sector providers to deliver Pathways in new areas without having
to replicate existing provision will need to be closely evaluated
as support may vary by locality, provider or individual adviser.
Identifying the impact on employment rates by different impairment
groups will be important. For example if contracts are based on
outcomes, safeguards will be needed to ensure that providers do
not have incentives to focus on those perceived to be closer to
the labour market to the detriment of others with more complex
barriers or potentially higher support needs.
17. The disability equality duty could ensure
that the extended role of the private and voluntary sectors as
envisaged in the Green Paper drives up the quality of provision.
The DRC is proposing approaches to commissioning and monitoring
of contracts that promote disability equality, transparency, accountability
and positive outcomes.
Jobcentre Plus and resources
18. The Green Paper sets out some challenging
roles for Jobcentre Plus in the context of efficiency savings,
though as we noted in our earlier submission, IB reforms were
intended to benefit from savings elsewhere (para 40). It is unclear
whether this would apply to Pathways roll out between now and
19. In our oral evidence session on 13 February
we also referred to concerns about Jobcentre Plus practice in
relation to the DDA. We would like to set the record straight
by clarifying that there is very little evidence of concerns relating
to Personal advisers in Pathways areas. A number of callers to
the DRC's Helpline concern communications in inaccessible materials,
procedures for benefit claims, and employment practice in DWP
From an examination of 84 calls between July 2004 and December
2005, only six appear to have originated from live Pathways localities
and none appear to relate to Personal Adviser practice; two concerned
employment practice in DWP agencies, two were non-disability related
benefit queries, one concerned assistance with form filling and
one regarding disallowance of IB.
20. Nonetheless we hope that the concerns
as raised by callers and in our earlier submission (eg regarding
communications with customers) will be addressed by Jobcentre
Plus in the run up to publishing its Disability Equality Scheme
by December 2006.
21. We have offered to work with DWP to
undertake a prototype disability equality impact assessment on
the proposals contained within the Green Paper to enable the department
to have a fuller understanding of the implications of proposals
prior to implementation, and to provide a foundation upon which
to build DWP's disability equality strategy.
78 As in the case of back pain management: see Waddell
G and Aylward, M, 2005, "The Scientific and Conceptual Basis
of Incapacity Benefits", TSO. Back
DRC, "Welfare Reform Policy Paper, January 2006". Back
See DRC response to the Social Exclusion Unit inquiry
on Mental Health 2004. Back
ORB and Mori research. Back
See eg Oliver M and Barnes, C, 1998, "Disabled People
and Social Policy: From Exclusion to Inclusion", Longman. Back
Thornton P and Corden A, 2002, "Evaluating Access to Work:
A case study approach", DWP research WAE 138; HC Hansard
12 September 2005 col 2501w. Back
HC Hansard 19 July 2005 col 1628w; National Audit Office,
2005, "Getting and retaining a job: the Department for Work
and Pensions' support for disabled people", HC 455 session
The Capability Report was intended to be available by the second
work focussed interview but the response has been mixed, sometimes
arriving too late or its content adding little to what was already
known to the adviser at that stage: Knight et al, 2005,
"Incapacity Benefit reforms-the Personal Adviser Role and
practices: Stage Two", DWP research report 278. Back
DRC, 2005, "Shaping the IB Reforms Green Paper-Preliminary
response from the Disability Rights Commission". Back
Beyer S et al, 2004, "Working lives: the role of
Day Centres in supporting people with learning disabilities into
employment", DWP research report 203. Back
See para 5 of our earlier submission. Back
"Conditions for conditionality", DRC briefing paper
September 2004. Back
Bunt K et al, 2001, "Recruiting benefit claimants:
A survey of employers in ONE pilot areas", DWP research report
no 139. Back
See Blyth, B, 2006, "Incapacity Benefit reforms:
Pathways to work pilots performance and analysis", DWP working
paper no 26; Waddell G and Aylward, M, 2005, "The Scientific
and Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Benefits", TSO. Back
DWP, 2005, "Opportunity for All, Seventh Annual Report 2005",
Cm 6673; Stanley K with Maxwell, D, 2004, "Fit for Purpose:
the reform of incapacity benefit", ippr. Back
Budget 2005, page 188. Back
Half a million calls were made to the Helpline in the first five
years: http://www.drc.org.uk/newsroom/newsdetails.asp?id=839§ion=1 Back
DRC, "The Duty to Promote Disability Equality: Statutory
Code of Practice, England and Wales". Back