Written evidence submitted by Age UK |
half of current Incapacity Benefit (IB) and Severe Disablement
Allowance claimants are aged 50 and over, so the migration will
have a hugely significant impact on this age group.
evidence draws on the experience of our partner, Age Concern Blackburn
with Darwen. This partner has been involved with the Incapacity
BenefitEmployment and Support Allowance migration pilot
scheme, helping individuals aged 50 plus who have been affected.
Its clients fall within the Burnley Jobcentre Plus pilot area.
older benefit ex-Incapacity Benefit claimants have been unaware
of what to expect, both from the migration process and of the
latest version of the ESA50 form is not suitable for the needs
of many of our clients, in particular those with multiple conditions.
We recommend the Government reviews this form and ensures that
it accurately and fairly reflects the conditions of all ESA claimants.
are concerned that those found "fit for work" will not
receive adequate support. Jobcentre Plus advisers must be aware
of and able to manage the needs of ex-IB claimants, and the waiting
period before referral to the Work Programmeonce it is
in placeshould be abolished.
1. 49.5% of current Incapacity Benefit and Severe
Disablement Allowance claimants are aged 50 plus.i
Therefore the migration process is likely to have a considerable
impact on older benefit recipients, although it is hard to predict
a figure with certainty because some will retire (or die) before
their re-assessment takes place. There will, of course, be knock-on
implications for reliance on state benefits throughout the life
2. Age Concern Blackburn with Darwen has been
supporting Incapacity Benefit (IB) recipients during and after
their reassessment and subsequent migration to Employment and
Support Allowance or Jobseekers Allowance. It has been involved
with claimants from the Burnley Jobcentre Plus district, which
was one of the two areas piloting the process of migrating IB
claimants to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from October
2010 to April 2011. The evidence in this paper draws on their
3. Clients often lack understanding of the rationale
behind the migration and the process through which is takes place.
Having typically been claiming IB for many years with minimal
work-related support, it is then often a shock to find that their
new benefit makes requirements of them to look for work. It appears
that there has been a lack of communication about what people
can expect as they are migrated.
4. Comments on the severity of the test are widely
reported by other organisations, so we will not reiterate those
here, although they are echoed by Age Concern Blackburn with Darwen.
However, one point of note which we have found to be common is
that the ESA50 form is rarely taken into consideration by the
medical assessor. Clients felt aggrieved that they had taken the
trouble to fill this out and provide evidence of their condition
only for it to be ignored in the medical assessment.
5. There is a demonstrable inconsistency between
medical assessors. This needs to be ironed out to ensure the test
is fair for all claimants.
6. Many claimants who are found fit for work
simply drop out of the benefits system. There needs to be greater
support for people who are either ineligible for benefits or who
choose not to claim, in particular providing back to work support
for individuals who volunteer and ensuring everyone is aware of
the Next Step guidance service.
7. The appeals process has been found to be too
lengthy. Many clients are told they will have to wait six to nine
months, which leads some to drop out of the system. The Government
should investigate how this could be speeded up.
8. The second version of ESA50 form which was
launched recently has had a negative impact on many claims. The
reduced length means it is harder for people to convey the impact
of experiencing multiple conditions. Also, the nature of problems
has been simplified - for example it no longer distinguishes between
sitting and standing, it simply asks whether the claimant can
remain static for an hour. We do not believe this gives a sufficient
overview of the nature of an individual's disabilities.
9. We are concerned that those who are migrated
on to Jobseekers Allowance will in particular require significant
support. The pilot statistics show that 32% of claimants are found
"fit for work" and instructed to claim Jobseekers Allowance,
should they wish to. A further 38% are moved into the Work Related
Activity Group of ESA.ii These people will require
varying degrees of support in order to successfully find work.
We are concerned that the necessary levels of help will not be
in place, in particular for those found "fit for work"
For example, Jobcentre Plus advisers may require special training
to better manage the typical needs of these claimants (who have
usually been out of the labour market for many years).
10. While the introduction of the Work Programme
may provide additional support for the ex-IB claimant group, they
will have to wait three months to be eligible for referral. We
believe that more intensive support that is tailored to the needs
of the individual should be available immediately on receipt of
i DWP, Incapacity
Benefit/Severe Disablement Allowance statistics, August 2010.
ii DWP, Interim
results of Work Capability Assessments for IB reassessment trial
areas, 1 April 2011.