DR UK says: Chancellor, we need rights not discretion

Fri,17 March 2023
News Benefits
Many Disabled people will have been shocked by the content of the Health and Disability White Paper, as well as many Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), including ourselves.

It must be stressed that all the proposed reforms require primary legislation, that would need to be enacted in the next Parliament post-general election.

Following any legislation, the reforms would be rolled out, for new claims, on a staged, geographical basis from no earlier than 2026/2027 and completed at the earliest by 2029.

Existing Universal Credit (UC) claimants would not be likely to move to the new system until at least 2029.

Some of the White Paper proposals are positive, such as the piloting of automatic sharing of medical reports with claimants before a decision is made, the recruitment of specialist assessors, and the testing of matching claimants with assessors who have expertise on their primary health conditions.

DR UK, along with other DPOs and allies, has long campaigned for these changes.

However, we have major concerns about the proposed benefit reforms.

Of significant concern is the scrapping of the work capability assessment (WCA). Many Disabled people may have reacted with relief on first hearing this news, as the WCA has been vilified and feared since its introduction in 2008.

Frequent problems continue to be reported with the accuracy of the WCA assessors’ reports, including: omitting significant details, the assessors’ account differing to that of the individual being assessed, and observations which aren’t backed up by evidence or are inappropriate or irrelevant.

In addition, the WCA, has been blamed for countless deaths and serious harm to disabled claimants.

However, the White Paper proposes to replace the WCA with: the personal independence payment (PIP) assessment.

It says that the UC limited capability for work (LCWRA) additional payment, will be replaced by a new UC health component which will only be awarded to those receiving PIP.

Using PIP as a passport to the health component of UC is extremely problematic. All the issues relating to the lack of accuracy of WCA assessments, apply equally to PIP - perhaps unsurprisingly given five weeks of online virtual training for Health Care Professionals.

Tragically, the PIP assessment process has also resulted in the deaths of disabled people.

The success rate for new PIP claims is only 50%, whereas the success rate of those who appeal PIP decisions is around 70%.

Moreover, not all of those currently in the UC LCWRA group would be eligible for PIP.

The scrapping of the WCA will mean that disabled claimants would be solely reliant on PIP to secure the additional health component of UC.  .

New DWP figures show that 632,000 people receive out-of-work disability benefit payments, that only those with the highest support needs are eligible for, but they do not receive PIP or disability living allowance (DLA), which PIP is gradually replacing for working-age claimants.

Many of these people will have shorter-term debilitating health conditions and may not be eligible to receive PIP. Others will have claimed PIP but been wrongly refused it.

In addition, the PIP assessment isn’t intended to assess a disabled claimants capability to work. It’s meant to capture the extra costs disabled people face in life (although it doesn’t do this very well).

There is no Government proposal to widen the entitlement rules for PIP to take into account difficulties disabled people might have in relation to securing work.

Another major concern is that the scrapping of the WCA would mean that nobody at all would be exempt from work conditionality on the grounds of disability. It would be left to individual jobcentre work coaches to decide what should be required of the claimant and the extent to which sanctions would be imposed.

It’s a move from a system based on rights, to one based on discretion.

Nobody would be protected from work-related requirements in order to receive UC.

Everyone on UC would be treated as a job seeker, with those receiving PIP receiving an additional UC health component.

With the loss of “no work conditionality protection”, no disabled claimant will be immune from being sanctioned.

Will unqualified work coaches be better at making decisions on whether someone is fit for work rather than Maximus Health Care Professionals undertaking WCAs?

The Chancellor’s Budget speech is extremely chilling in this regard: “the Government is strengthening the way the sanctions regime is applied … and ensuring that work coaches have the tools and training to implement sanctions as effectively as possible, including for failing to take up a job.”

Back in 2018, the Work and Pensions Committee issued a report that found that the overwhelming majority of evidence it received concluded that: “conditionality and sanctions for people with a disability is at best ineffective, and worse, inappropriate and counterproductive.”

As a result, it recommended that disabled claimants be exempt from sanctions.

Ken Butler, Disability Rights UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Advisor said “ We want a system that fully supports all Disabled people to live with independence and dignity, whilst on benefits. Disabled people who can’t work must be given full support.

Disabled people who want to work should be given the personalised and flexible support they need to enter work, and  those acquiring impairments and health conditions whilst at work, should be supported to retain their jobs.

We want a benefits system where Disabled people have rights and where we are not subjected to sanctions.” 

Transforming Support: The Health and Disability White Paper is available from gov.uk