Health and Disability White Paper: support not sanctions needed, says DR UK

Wed,15 March 2023
News Benefits
The Government has published its Health and Disability White Paper - “Transforming Future Support”- that it says “sets out our ambitious reforms to help more disabled people and people with health conditions to start, stay and succeed in work and have a better experience of the benefits system”.

“Landmark reforms” to the benefits system are aimed at changing the emphasis “from what people can’t do, to what they can”, by legislating to remove the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) so that in future there is only one health and disability assessment – the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment.

“This will mean there will be no need to be found to have limited capability for work and limited capability to prepare for work to get additional income-related support for a disability or health condition – reducing the worry claimants currently experience that they will lose their benefits following a reassessment.

In addition, the current Universal Credit (UC) Limited Capability for Work and Work Related Activity (LCWRA) financial top up will be replaced by a new UC health element:

“This will be awarded to people who are receiving the UC standard allowance and any PIP element. The award rate of the new UC health element will be set equal to the current award received by people in the LCWRA group, “ensuring there is a safety net in place for the most vulnerable”.

Another change includes more investment in employment support for Disabled people and people with health conditions:

 “We are stepping up our Work Coach support across the country, with disabled people and those with health conditions now having additional time with a work coach in Jobcentres.

“We are also extending the Work and Health Programme to September 2024 and rolling-out our new In-Work Progression Offer to help people in work on UC, including disabled people, to increase their earnings and move into better-paid jobs.”

“We will continue to work with employers and the occupational health sector to help more people remain in work and reduce health-related job loss.”

In addition, the Government aims to ensure that people can access the right support at the right time and have a better overall experience when applying for and receiving health and disability benefits:

“We are doing this by testing new initiatives to make it easier to apply for and receive health and disability benefits. This includes extending the Enhanced Support Service, which offers support for those who find it hardest to navigate the benefits system.

We are also testing a Severe Disability Group which means people with the most severe health conditions can benefit from a simplified process without needing to complete a detailed application form or go through an assessment.”

Other proposed reforms include:

  • stepping up access to employment support through extra work coach time and Universal Support - a new programme working directly with employers to match individuals with jobs and provide wrap-around support to succeed.
  • integrating health and employment provision to get people the health services they need to stay in or move into work. The WorkWell Partnerships Programme will test a new way of focussing health provision based on what an individual needs for work.
  • investing more in testing ways to boost Occupational Health coverage while consulting on ways to go even further on this, including through tax incentives.
  • embedding tailored employment support within mental health and MSK services in England, including expanding the well-established and successful Individual Placement and Support in Primary Care (IPSPC) scheme, scaling up MSK hubs in the community and improving access to digital resources such as apps for management of mental health and MSK conditions.

The proposed benefit reforms will require primary legislation, that will  be brought forward in the next Parliament. The reforms would then be rolled out, for new claims only, on a staged, geographical basis from no earlier than 2026/2027.

The new claims roll-out to be completed within three years (by 2029 at the earliest), before moving UC existing claimants on to the new system.

Ken Butler, Disability Rights UK welfare Rights and Policy Officer said:

“Barriers to more Disabled people getting employment do not lie with Disabled people ourselves  but with society – including inaccessible transport, poor employer attitudes, inadequate flexible working and  Access to Work Support and failure to make reasonable adjustments.

“The Government says its research shows that 20% of people in the LCWRA group on UC, or who are in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Support Group, would like to work at some point in the future.

“Conversely, this shows that 80% of Disabled people in these groups do not feel that the nature and extent of their disability or health condition enables them to undertake employment.

Yet what is proposed is to completely remove the protection of no work conditionality, with instead a system geared to driving disabled claimants into seeking and applying for jobs.

This conditionality would be enforced by a benefit sanctions regime.

In his Budget 2023, the Chancellor said that alongside greater support for all UC claimants to gain work “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.”

Those Disabled people who can work need support to do so, backed up by the provision of reasonable adjustments by employers. However those Disabled people who can’t work or can only work limited hours need protection from sanctions.

The new employment programmes targeted at Disabled people are welcomed but these need to be co-produced by Disabled people with Disabled Peoples Organisations involved in their implementation.

What is not needed is the removal of no work conditionality with its replacement by a sanctions regime.”

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