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IDS Calls For Another Major ESA Shakeup

January 18, 2016

A crackdown on the sick pay culture which costs Britain billions of pounds a year is being ordered by Iain Duncan Smith.

The Work and Pensions Secretary is particularly keen to slash the numbers off work with anxiety and depression.

In what is expected to be the biggest welfare reform of this Parliament, he will call for the shake-up of the ‘fundamentally flawed’ Employment and Support Allowance. Currently the 2.3million claimants on ESA are either assessed as being fit to work or signed off altogether.

A crackdown on the sick pay culture which costs Britain billions of pounds a year is being ordered by Iain Duncan Smith

But under a policy document to be unveiled within weeks, they will instead be tested for what they are able to do – not what they cannot.

They will then be found work for around ten hours a week, or whatever is possible, to get them back into the workplace – reducing the £14.2billion sickness benefits bill in the process. Those who repeatedly refuse could have their support cut.

The move is expected to put ministers on a collision course with disability campaigners, who claim the sick are already put under too much pressure to return to work.

But Mr Duncan Smith argues his plans are about helping the disabled and delivering ‘social justice’.

‘The sickness benefit culture in this country is in dire need of reform,’ he said. ‘Getting people into work is more than just earning a salary and certainly more than balancing the public purse. For culturally and socially, work is the spine that runs through a stable society. I want those who remain trapped and isolated on welfare to move from dependence to independence.’

Official figures reveal that while the number of claimants on unemployment benefits is down by almost 700,000 since 2010, the overall number on sickness benefits fell by just 88,000 during the same period.

Under the new test Mr Duncan Smith is particularly keen to target those signed off work with conditions related to their mental health. Almost half of ESA claimants have a mental or behavioural disorder as their primary condition, often ‘depression or anxiety’, according to officials.

To qualify for ESA – worth up to £102.15 a week – claimants must undergo a ‘work capability assessment’ to establish if they are able to return to employment immediately. Those who are not are divided into two groups – the severely disabled who will never be able to work, and those who are judged to be capable of work with the right support.

But Mr Duncan Smith said the test is too ‘binary’, adding: ‘It is a system that decides that you are either capable of work or you are not.

‘Two absolutes equating to one perverse incentive – a person has to be incapable of all work or available for all work.

‘In the world beyond ESA, things are rarely that simplistic. Someone may be able to do some work for some hours, days or weeks, but not what they were doing previously.’

The new test will focus on establishing what an individual might be able to do, although inevitably some claimants will still be judged unable to work at all. Those deemed capable of some types of work will then be required to look for employment, or risk losing some of their benefits.

Firms will also be encouraged to do more to prevent staff taking long-term sick leave, and to help them back into work after illness. GPs will be called on to refer the long-term sick to back-to-work programmes.

ESA was introduced in the final years of the last Labour government. Ministers thought it would be a short-term benefit, and forecast that the number claiming it would drop by a million after a decade.

Last week it emerged that a new drive is to be launched to help those with severe addictions, such as drink and drug problems, into work after it was revealed that they are costing taxpayers up to £10billion a year.

Under the Universal Support scheme, job centres will identify the addictions which are stopping some claimants finding work.

Once claimants have found employment, they will remain under the care of a job centre until they are doing sufficient hours to leave the Universal Credit benefits regime.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2016 1:36 pm

    In the mid eighties, Mrs Thatcher reduced the number of unemployed in the UK. She did this by shifting thousands of long term claimants onto Sickness and Invalidity Benefits. Now 30 years on they are attempting to reverse her tactical lie. Labour began this in an attempt to redress the balance. IDS has used the Labour model to the extreme, and has demonised the sick and disable so much through his propaganda they are becoming targets of some pretty vile attacks.

    • Florence permalink
      January 18, 2016 3:37 pm

      Your view of the post-Thatcher years is a bit naive. Under her, many of the men put on IB were in their 50’s and suffering from industrial and age-related problems, in areas where it was known there would never be jobs. In the post-Thatcher years it was very difficult to get disability and sickness benefits – take it from one who has been through the mill here. Yes, IDS has used the New Labour model to the extreme, but it was pretty extreme to start with – now it is savage. There is a dark force working in this area, and it’s going to get worse, because so many ordinary people have been corrupted by their lies and propaganda.

      • January 18, 2016 4:25 pm

        I agree, my wife at the time was disabled and had lots of problems claiming and keeping her benefits. It was recognised what Thatcher had done, undoing it was never going to be easy. That said, the big majority of people on disability and sickness benefits today deserve them. Whether there are jobs available or not, IDS and his DWP still want to send them to work. If they don’t find one of these imaginary suitable jobs they will lose their disability payments. Evil works indeed Florence.

  2. January 18, 2016 1:43 pm

    Reblogged this on disabledsingleparent.

  3. January 18, 2016 1:45 pm

    Tweeted @melissacade68

  4. L Loxton permalink
    January 18, 2016 2:05 pm

    As normal a completely flawed idea that will result in more stress and resulting deaths for those unable to work due to illness.When will the present Government get the intelliect to reallise that medical conditions can disqualify clients from being employable in the real world .To do 10hrs work in almost all cases will not earn sufficiant to pay rent , bills etc and short time wadges would disqualify from free perscriptions,dental,council tax relief & rent payments. Those who may scrape the 10 occasionally will have no garentee of being able to increase their ability to work more .Then there are those with medication side effects,sleep apnoea , unpredictable IBS ,incotenence and all the other virtualy crippling symptoms that go hand in hand with any condition,lack of stamina,breathing difficulties ,let alone pain and fatigue from living with it day by day.Single people rarely get any physical help but use every ounce of their being to keep going just to get assaulted by those who I have to say either have no grasp of reality or are just plain old nasty bullies .

    • shaun permalink
      January 18, 2016 2:50 pm

      As a disabled person, I can state that I could not agree more with assessment of life for most disabled people and the min set of this government.I would add, and to be brutally honest, if I were an employer in an increasingly competitive work market I would not be able to employ someone with my disabilities and mental health problems. Most small businesses do not have the lee-way to cater for those that are at the level of disability Ian Duncan Smith envisages employers finding 10 hours or so work for. What would those 10 hours look like 5 two hour slots a week (with the high risk of the person being ill on two of those days. So a spare desk, phone, computer, special seating arrangements. toilet adaptions, stair lift, level access, hospital appointments, medication to be administered (by whom: think of the legal implications; it’s not likely someone would sue a partner for negligence, but employer with an insurance policy, for administering the wrong dose?) and for the group IDS wants to force into work the requirements would be more than those I’ve stated. Another ‘not fully thought through policy’, from a government who’s fully ‘thought through’ are usually an unmitigated disaster!

      • Florence permalink
        January 18, 2016 3:44 pm

        Spot on. But a desk? That is most unlikely. I would expect 10 hours of unpaid slog on something like telesales from home. Think less “employer” and more “state pimping contracts” to employers. Think more like “charities” set up to sub-contract zero hours contracts for slave labour, of low skill, low pay, and no prospects. It is a system designed to frighten us all to death. Or push us off benefits. Whatever, it’s going to be so terrible, but it will be ignored by those who are not directly affected.

  5. January 18, 2016 2:27 pm

    Reblogged this on 61chrissterry.

  6. January 18, 2016 2:37 pm

    IDS, Cameron, & the rest will not be happy until the benefits’ system is reduced to subsistence level only.

    • Florence permalink
      January 18, 2016 3:45 pm

      It already is below subsistence level, but I get your meaning. Maybe down to a few food vouchers, and £5 a week on a key-meter. For the chosen few only.

  7. Moggy permalink
    January 18, 2016 4:46 pm

    “The Work and Pensions Secretary is particularly keen to slash the numbers off work with anxiety and depression”. But surely this is discrimination against people with mental health conditions if he just wants to target those of us who are affected by them (I actually suffer with both). I thought the idea of disability benefits (well, PIP at any rate) is that it’s not the condition but how it affects you. This is truly scary for people who suffer with anxiety. It’s like saying to someone in a wheelchair ‘we’re going to make you get up and walk no matter how much it hurts you’.

  8. January 18, 2016 5:46 pm

    Reblogged this on Benefit tales.

  9. Angela Bailey permalink
    January 18, 2016 5:59 pm

    Yet again we see a paradox here. There is no mention or acknowledgement by the DWP of the lack of treatment and support for those with anxiety and depression. Patients can wait a year or more for counselling or therapy for example. We also know that the millions spent on private companies tasked with the job of helping those in the WRAG group back into some kind of work has also had poor outcomes, and that some 63% of those sanctioned are in the WRAG goup.

    Until the DWP and IDS start to understand that their constant pressure is making people with anxiety more ill, nothing they dream up to cut numbers will work. You get people off ESA for anxiety and depression by making them well first, not by increasing triggers for their anxiety and depression.

  10. January 18, 2016 7:23 pm

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  11. January 19, 2016 11:24 pm


  12. February 2, 2016 5:35 pm

    I have a friend who is desperately ill and I just hope that he doesn’t find out about this; just the thought of it will send him into a serious spiral – he hardly copes from day to day as it is.

    Just a thought folks, for those affected, don’t let these announcements add to your worries, don’t let them do that to you. I know that some are going to have to go through a terrible ordeal, but the DWP will reap what they sow in the end when people start dropping like flies. I also think that even before that, some kind of judicial review will come about when the various charities start making a noise (and some still do).

    It will not always be like this; I am hopeful of that. I don’t think I’ll survive that long anyway now, and I’m not sorry about that. It’s shameful that an ill person can even think like that isn’t it?


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