Government ‘must act’ on disability benefits reforms


The government must make major changes across three key areas of its disability benefits reforms, campaigners say in a new report.

The report by the Disability Benefits Consortium questions crucial aspects of the new employment and support allowance (ESA), reforms to disability living allowance (DLA), and the proposed new universal credit (UC).

The report raises a number of concerns about the much-criticised work capability assessment, which decides eligibility for ESA, the new out-of-work disability benefit.

In a survey by the consortium, more than four in ten disabled people who had taken the test said the anxiety it caused made their impairment worse.

And only four per cent of disabled respondents who were not in work said they did not want to work, which the report says “is in contrast to widespread media portrayal of benefit claimants as reluctant to work”.

The consortium surveyed more than 6,000 disabled people about their experiences of the benefits system. The report also includes findings from a previously-published survey of people’s experiences of DLA by the disability poverty charity Disability Alliance (DA).

The report calls on the government to scrap plans to impose a one-year time limit on claiming contributory ESA, rethink plans to cut spending on DLA, and make major improvements to its plans for DLA’s replacement, the Personal Independence Payment.

Other recommendations include the need for an improved ESA application form, and for there to be an “urgent review” of the WCA, which it says is “not fit for purpose” and is finding far too many disabled people “fit for work”.

The consortium – whose 41 members include DA, RADAR and the Learning Disability Coalition – said the changes were needed because the government’s reforms would have “a massive impact on the lives of millions of disabled people”.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The government has made it clear that disabled people who can’t work won’t have to and have committed to DLA remaining a non-means-tested cash benefit.

“We will also ensure that disabled people get the help they need to move into the jobs they want.

“Both Work Choice and our new Work Programme will provide more tailored support than ever before and Access to Work continues to help disabled people get into work and stay in their job providing help with things like travel costs or specialist equipment.”

24 March 2011