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Minister previews Disability Green Paper social security reforms

24 May 2021

The Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson has given details of how the government plans to reform the social security system for Disabled people through its long-delayed Health and Disability Green Paper.

He has also said that the Green Paper, and the also delayed National Disability Strategy, would “possibly, probably” be published together and before the summer recess in July.

Mr. Tomlinson told MPs on the work and pensions select committee last week that the Green Paper would include changes to the following:

  • Disability benefit assessments

He confirmed that improvements to the work capability assessment system would be an important part of the Green paper.

The Minister said that the DWP was “very, very encouraged” by the introduction of telephone and video disability benefit assessments during the pandemic and added that:

“We will keep video and telephone assessments and through the Health and Disability Green Paper we will explore to what extent and where they are best to be used.”

Mr. Tomlinson suggested that this may allow the use of more specialist healthcare professionals to carry out assessments of claimants with some health conditions, as the assessor and claimant will not need to be in the same location for the assessment.

In addition, other measures would include improving the availability of “advocates” to support benefit claimants who are currently “unable to engage” with the system, while another “key theme” would be “removing unnecessary assessments”.

  • Benefit sanctions

Another Green Paper “key theme” would concern benefit sanctions, with Mr. Tomlinson stressing that the “ DWP needed to be “absolutely on top of our game in identifying potentially vulnerable claimants” and then engaging an advocate – if appropriate – to support those claimants as part of “one last push to try to find a way to build a positive relationship” before the “last resort” of a sanction.

  • Lack of trust

The Minister was challenged about the about Disabled people’s lack of trust in DWP and concerns about the department’s “lack of respect” for disabled people.

He responded by saying that said he viewed these issues “incredibly seriously” and that they would be addressed in the Green Paper and the disability strategy, and that it was important to ensure that people with “real life experience” are “engaged in the process of co-designing how we provide our information, our services, the support”.

The Minister added that he viewed these issues “incredibly seriously” and that they would be addressed in the green paper and the disability strategy, and that it was important to ensure that people with “real life experience” are “engaged in the process of co-designing how we provide our information, our services, the support”.

  • Access to Work

Mr Tomlinson also said that there was now funding to transform the paper based Access to Work (AtW) scheme into a digital one, with work already being underway.

He also outlined  giving potential job applicants with more certainty about the support they would be able to receive through AtW – ahead of a recruitment interview – through an AtW “passport”, which he said DWP was “very, very excited” about. 

Source and for more information see Tomlinson sketches out reforms on sanctions, assessments and Access to Work available from disabilitynewsservice.com.