Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Child Poverty Action Group after the publication of the Welfare
Reform Green Paper
1. CPAG has already submitted evidence to
the Work and Pensions Select Committee's inquiry into reform of
incapacity benefits. We welcome the opportunity to provide additional
evidence following the publication of the Welfare Reform Green
2. We agree with the Government that many
disabled people want to work and have the right to do so. We welcome
the emphasis on what disabled people can do rather than their
incapacity, and the new rates will be higher.
3. We are greatly concerned about the conditional
aspects of the reform. We see no need for this and suggest it
may undermine both good will and anti-poverty policy. We are also
doubtful that the resources provided will be sufficient to roll-out
Pathways to Work. Neither do the ongoing staff reductions in the
Department for Work and Pensions auger well for effective implementation.
4. This submission draws on the experiences
and opinions of a small number of sick or disabled parents we
have interviewed over the past few weeks. Although these parents
are by no means a representative sample, we feel that their opinions
and experiences of Government policy are valid and illuminating.
5. If the Government believes that a million
disabled people are keen to access paid employment, we cannot
see the justification for conditionality. The provision of excellent
quality supportwhich should include benefit adviceis
quite sufficient to attract disabled adults to participate.
6. We are concerned that the most vulnerable
groups, such as those with fluctuating conditions or mental health
problems may be the least able to fulfil any job-search requirements
and to incur benefit sanctions. This will plunge them and their
children into poverty and may worsen their health.
7. We welcome the promised increase in the
benefit rate for new claimants who are awarded the Employment
and Support Allowance (ESA). However, given the loss of existing
disability premiums within income support (IS) and the abolition
of age additions and adult dependency increases we are concerned
there may be significant losers.
8. If the "Support" component
has a higher rate than the "Employment" component, and
both are higher than current incapacity benefit (IB) levels, this
will generate three different rates for incapacity benefits. We
are concerned that existing claimants who will not receive the
new Employment and Support Allowance will continue to receive
less irrespective of need.
9. We welcome the Government's commitment
to "continue to look for further ideas to help people take
opportunities without fear of their benefits being removed".
(para 107). Disabled people often feel that if they undertake
any activityeven if it is good for their healththey
will lose their benefits.
"The stupid thing is you've only got
to do something on a regular basis, they think you're doing something
you shouldn't be doing . . . "
However, the Green Paper contains mixed messages
about the benefit system:
On the one hand it reports that
many people who move onto incapacity benefits "will never
return to the workplace, with a devastating impact on themselves
(and), their family." (para 34) If moving onto incapacity
benefits has "a devastating impact" upon sick or disabled
people's lives, then clearly the benefit system is not currently
providing security for those who cannot work.
On the other hand it implies
that the generosity of the benefit system prevents people from
working "by offering more money the longer someone is on
benefits . . ." (para 1) We do not believe that the "generosity"
of benefits is a deterrent to employment.
"I was on £20,000 a year and then
I was on £3,500 a year . . . And every year you get little
bit more benefit money, but everything else goes up much more
extremely . . . so you're a little bit worse off every year .
. . incapacity benefit is rubbish, it's awful . . ."
We accept that the inefficient
manner in which the benefit system is currently administered makes
people think twice before moving off benefits and into work.
"It takes a long time to get benefits
put into place, and get to know what you're entitled to . . .
for example, six to eight weeks to get benefits like income support
and housing benefit and things like that put into place . . .
it makes you think twice, it makes everybody think twice . . ."
10. Those disabled parents we spoke to recognise
that paid employment can bring significant financial and psychological
benefits. Many would like to work. However, their experience of,
and attitude to, paid employment reveal ongoing problems with
discrimination and highlight the failure of the Government to
communicate its message effectively or sensitively.
". . . Until people are accepted in society
with their disabilities you're not going to get disabled people
into work and happy . . ."
11. Although the Green Paper places greater
responsibility on employers, many disabled people assume that
they are being blamed for "languishing" on benefits.
Despite the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act,
many disabled parents feel that societyand employerscontinue
to discriminate against them, and that appropriate support is
seldom provided. The commitment to improve funding and delivery
of Access to Work is welcome in this regard.
12. Although the Green Paper states "the
problem is not a lack of jobs" (para 14), some parents are
concerned about the quality and appropriateness of jobs that are
available to them
"All they're interested in is targets,
they don't care about what sort of a dead end job they put you
into . . . "
13. The Green Paper argues that work is
"good for individuals, good for families, good for communities
and good for Britain" (para 23). However, some disabled parents
report that balancing paid work alongside their health needs and
family responsibilities damages their health, and has an impact
on their ability to parent.
"I was always exhausted, I hadn't got
the energy to work and be a parent, it was either/or . . ."
". . . if my mum hadn't had the pressure
of work . . . she wouldn't have been as ill as she was and she
wouldn't have needed to be hospitalised . . ."
14. The Green Paper contains a welcome focus
on preventionbut only for people who are already in paid
work. Given that most claimants move onto incapacity benefits
from other benefits, prevention should involve the delivery of
an adequate financial safety net that protects the health of all.
15. Disabled parents are sceptical about
the availability of the sort of reliable "joined-up"
services that they need to cope on a day-to-day basis, let alone
help them engage in work-focused activities or access paid employment.
"It's hard enough getting care in the
home, how are they going to get care in the workplace . . . I
had to fight tooth and nail (to get my care needs met) . . ."
16. Some disabled parents feel that services
do not address the complexity of their lives, and ignore parenting
responsibilities, even though many are lone parents.
"The professionals around us don't see
me as a mother . . . They see me as a 23 year old Asian adult
with mental health problems . . . they don't see the impact it
has on my daughter . . ."
17. The ability to engage in work-focused
activities and access employment is directly linked with the availability
of appropriate and accessible transport and childcare. Both issues
have been largely ignored in the reform process.
"I'm not happy about leaving her (in
an inner city) school club until 6.30 in the evening . . . I want
to see my daughter . . ."
18. The Green Paper is vague in many places,
and we have a number of queries about the new system.
19. We are concerned about the very low
level at which the basic allowance will be set during the assessment
process which, at basic jobseeker's allowance rates, will place
disabled people into poverty.
20. The combination of increased complexities
alongside staff cuts may render the 12 week target for assessments
challenging and could generate a postcode lottery.
21. The Green Paper accepts that the PCA
is "one of the toughest in the world" (para 62). The
revised PCA will not just establish an individual's entitlement
to benefit, but it will distinguish between recipients capable
of work focused activities and those who are not, a highly complex
and sensitive task.
22. Decision makers will have to stream
disabled people on the basis of evidence from a variety of medical
practitioners. But disabled parents report that medical practitioners
do not always agree.
"Now the government are saying `We've
got to assess you to see if you can go out to work', but how much
does a person have to be pulled, and prodded and poked and questioned?
. . . How can they separate people out? . . . . I was under a
GP, then you're under a neurologist, a cardiologist, you can add
in a couple more (Ear Nose and Throat) people . . . and they're
all telling you different things . . ."
23. There are a number of issues that need
to be clarified with regard to the Employment and Support Allowance
(ESA). For example:
Will the increased rates protect
benefit recipients' income over time? Will all recipients be better
off even after the loss of disability premiums, age additions
and adult dependency increases?
Will the ESA be backdated to
the time of the original claim if awarded after the PCA?
Can a person ask to be moved
from one component to another? Will they have to go through the
PCA again? How often will somebody be able to request a review?
How long will people have to
remain on the employment component if they can't access work?
The Green Paper is unclear about
how the new benefit will impact upon entitlement to other benefits,
for example, jobseeker's allowance, tax credits, income support,
carer's allowance, disability living allowance, housing benefit
and council tax benefit.
If recipients return to previous
ESA levels following a period in work, will other benefitssuch
as housing benefitautomatically return to their previous
24. We are concerned about delivery issues,
particularly given proposed staff cuts within Jobcentre Plus.
Increasing the number of work focused interviews and personal
capability assessments will be expensive and labour intensive.
An increasing reliance upon medical practitioners also has resource
25. We do not think that £360 million
is sufficient. If current spending levels within the Pathways
to Work areas were rolled out nationally, the cost would be nearer
As it is, we are concerned that the Pathways pilots may have engaged
easier to help groups, and that if all new claimants are involved
costs will be higher.
26. The Government proposes to "use
private and voluntary sector expertise to provide personal advice
and support for individuals to help them back to work." (para
84). Although both private and voluntary sectors have a role to
play, we are concerned about them being principal providers. We
feel that it is neither realistic nor appropriate to expect the
voluntary sector, which varies hugely in coverage and capacity,
to take on a role as a primary provider. We do not accept the
voluntary sector exists to deliver state functions.
27. We are especially worried about non-state
providers being given the power and the discretion to sanction
claimants. Extending delivery through these sectors raises difficult
questions around accountability, and the impact that delivery
contractsand the financial motives these createwill
have on quality of service.
28. As this submission indicates, there
is much to be welcomed in the Green Paperparticularly with
regard to additional support. However, it is important to reassure
and engage disabled people themselves. Ministers were complicit
in a very negative press campaign prior to its publication and
hints in the press about benefits cuts have generated high levels
of anxiety. While the Green Paper is couched in more constructive
language it remains peppered with references to "benefit
29. Mixed messages have taken their toll
both on the way in which disabled people view the Government's
attitude to incapacity benefits, and how the general public view
"You feel put down all the time because
you don't workpeople look down on you, people call you
low life . . ."
30. If disabled people are to be "bought
in" to the reform process, both rhetoric and policy must
emphasize support rather than threats.
218 80% of children in households with a parent claiming
JSA were in income poverty in 2003-04. National Statistics, Households
Below Average Incomes, (DWP, 2005). Back
Opportunity for All-7th Annual Report (Department for Work and
Pensions,, 2005, para 111) reports that "This will extend
Pathways to Work to cover a third of the country at an annual
cost of around £167 million per year, on the road to making
this a nationwide offer." If you multiply £167 million
by three you get £501 million. Back