Written evidence submitted by Disability
Disability Alliance is a UK charity which aims to
break the link between poverty and disability. We have over 250
members and 36 years of benefits and welfare experience. Our Board
of Trustees contains a majority of disabled people.
We welcome the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry
into the migration of people from Incapacity Benefits to Employment
Support Allowance, including using the Work Capability Assessment.
We are unable to respond in full due to the significant level
and pace of change to the range of welfare services disabled people
require which results in increased demand for our services at
a time of reduced DWP funding and urgent need to work constructively
with Government to ensure the negative effects of some proposals
for disabled people and their families are mitigated as far as
However, we have chosen to submit this short briefing
as disabled people are disproportionately reliant on the welfare
stateincluding out of work support such as unemployment
benefits and are likely to be affected by "migration"
from Incapacity Benefits using the Work Capability Assessment
We believe there are fundamental problems with the
current migration plans, processes and likely outcomes for disabled
people which will significantly increase disability poverty for
thousands of families across the UK.
Disability Alliance supports welfare reform which
genuinely delivers opportunities for disabled people to contribute
in work. However, we believe the current migration plans, using
the evidenced problems of the Work Capability Assessment will:
to ascertain disabled people's needs effectively;
costs to Government through avoidably high appeal rates (40% of
which are successful costing £8 million in 2010);
deliver "welfare to work" but will shift many disabled
people from one source of support to an alternative, lower value
benefit or even cut people off from out of work support altogether;
hardship for some disabled people and their families (with a third
of all disabled people already living in poverty).
We believe the WCA process, timeframe and individual
descriptors also require significant improvement to ensure it
is more effective at identifying needs and allocating appropriate
Sadly, the independent review of the WCA was not
fully implemented before national migration began. Only a quarter
of the recommendations appear to have been fully accepted prior
to national transfer of roughly 10,000 people per week from Incapacity
Benefits. This is despite the conclusion of the independent review
that: "the WCA is not working as well as it should"
and represents a significant missed opportunity.
Several further independent reports
have demonstrated the failings of the WCA in particular and its
negative impact for many disabled people and their families. Given
the evidence failings of the testing system, the known barriers
to work for disabled people and the current economic climate,
it is even harder to comprehend the failure of Government to act
on an area known to cause such significant disadvantage for disabled
people and their families.
In planning for the introduction of the Employment
and Support Allowance (ESA; accessed through the WCA) in 2008
the former Government estimated that 49% of people undergoing
the WCA would be found "fit for work"ie allocated
Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA).
However since the introduction of ESA:
69% of new claimants have been signposted to JSA after being found
fully fit for work;
9% of new claimants have been placed in the ESA Support Group
(not required to undertake any work-related activity); and
have been placed in the ESA Work-Related Activity Group.
We do not believe that any Government has deliberately
intended to use an assessment which routinely failed to accurately
identify disabled people's potential support needs. But the WCA
with the original Government estimates for how many people would
between disabled people, their personal healthcare provider and
the broader public's expectation of the WCA compared with the
outcome from DWP decision-makers; and
failure requiring regular appeals at considerable (but avoidable)
In August 2010 the Government laid new regulations
which DWP estimate will increase the number of people found fully
fit for work by a further 5%. This means an even greater number
of disabled people likely to be found fully fit for workincluding
people with visual and/or mobility impairments.
The inefficacy of the WCA in ensuring an accurate
assessment is made for disabled people also:
the provision of work-related support to people who have a limited
capability for work and require additional help to get or keep
a job; and
considerable and avoidable stress and anxiety on disabled people,
their families, Jobcentre Plus and tribunals staff. For disabled
people, this can exacerbate mental or physical health problems
and have further knock-on costs to individuals as well as public
services (if people require GP/NHS treatment for example).
This undermines the aspirations of welfare reform
and increases the accusations that reform is motivated not by
genuinely seeking greater numbers of disabled people in work,
but by more simplistic reductions in overall welfare expenditure
without accounting for the consequences for disabled people and
We believe that disabled people's pathways post-WCA
should be monitored closely and reviewed to ensure that groups
of people experiencing greater difficulty in accessing work be
either reclassified into the ESA work-related activity group to
help overcome barriers to employment, or receive additional help
from an alternative part of the Work Programme for example.
If, for instance, people with learning difficulties
are routinely being found fully fit for work but monitoring reveals
that they remain out of work after a year (or again after two
years) it would seem prudent to better support this group into
work to tackle benefit dependency and ensure everyone is able
to contributeincluding through National Insurance and Income
ESA SUPPORT AND
Current Government plans include time-limiting ESA
payments to just one year for disabled people in the Work-Related
Activity Group who have previously made National Insurance contributions.
This not only penalises people who have worked and contributed,
but will directly cause an increase in disability poverty.
The aim of the Universal Credit is to tackle poverty
but this policy directly contradicts that objective. The means-testing
which will prevent some disabled people losing all support will
result in a disabled person with a partner earning £135 per
week after tax (ie under the National Minimum Wage for a full-time
position) not receiving alternative support (from income-based
ESA). This also puts huge pressure on partners of people losing
support and could result in family breakdown, carers leaving work
and further costs to government at both local and national level.
The Government estimates roughly 400,000 disabled
people will lose all out of work benefits as a result. Disability
Alliance does not accept that:
is long enough for newly disabled people to adapt to a health
condition/impairment and (re-)enter work;
year is enough for someone with a significant impairment to find
suitable employmentespecially in areas of lower work availability;
has been provided to suggest one year is a suitable timeframe
for people to find work; or
poverty is an acceptable direct outcome of Government policy.
For disabled people being moved onto contributory-ESA
in the Work-Related Activity Group from April 2011 there are further
challenges due to the full Work Programme not being operational
until June. This may mean someone losing benefit after less than
12 months support has been providedespecially when the
initial assessment phase has been taken into account and any subsequent
time spent appealing an initial DWP decision.
For disabled people in areas where there are backlogs
in the tribunals system, the effect could be a 12 week assessment
period, six month appeal and only accessing ESA Work-Related Activity
Support for under three months before the time limiting takes
effect and ends out of work help.
Professor Harrington's first review of the WCA made
recommendations which are being considered for the second independent
review. Recommendations 19-25 all relate to the next review of
the WCA for instance.
We are very concerned that disabled people who have
not had needs identified including people with fluctuating conditions
and mental health problems arte likely to be disproportionately
over-represented in Incapacity Benefits recipients. Many disabled
people will be amongst the 10,000 people expected to undergo assessments
under national migration and will be very surprised that no action
has been undertaken as a result of the initial review despite
evidenced failings to appropriately assess needs.
75 Including Citizens Advice, Macmillan, the National
AIDS Trust and the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion. Back