Government Advisor Matthew Oakley Suggests Scrapping The Support Group
Government advisor, Matthew Oakley, recently published a report titled Closing the gap: creating a framework for tackling the disability employment gap in the UK,
This report suggests a major reform of ESA and the WCA. His suggestions include scrapping the Support Group. (red bolding below mine.)
Four principles that should form the basis for reform of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the WCA are outlined below. It is important to highlight that this would not be a cost-cutting exercise. The reforms proposed would combine existing money and aim to distribute it better on the basis of need.
- Splitting benefit eligibility from setting conditionality
As suggested in other reports, the assessment of eligibility for benefit should be split from the assessment of an individual’s ability to move towards and enter work. This would ensure that, no matter what the level of benefit an individual receives, they will still have an incentive to engage with the support available and move towards work if they are able to.
- Creating a common income-replacement element in Universal Credit
The most obvious way of delivering this would be to remove the WCA and create one aligned income replacement benefit within Universal Credit. Anyone out of work and claiming benefits would receive the same basic entitlement to Universal Credit.
- Accounting for the extra costs of disability
In effect, this would remove the Support Group element of ESA and align benefit rates for disabled and non-disabled claimants in Universal Credit. However, it is clear that those with a disability often face extra costs of living.To meet these extra costs, existing spending on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) / Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and the support Group element of ESA should be brought together to finance a new extra costs benefit. Eligibility for this benefit should be determined on the basis of need, with an assessment replacing the WCA and PIP assessment and designed with extensive consultation.Where individuals are unable to work, there should also be a principle that the level of benefit provided is sufficient to allow them to live comfortably and engage fully in society. In the longer-term, the Government should explore whether these benefits could be set to ensure that disabled claimants are lifted out of poverty with the income they receive.
- Out on limb – contributory ESA (ESA(c))
ESA(c) is currently expected to run alongside Universal Credit. However, these reforms will mean that the basis for determining eligibility (the WCA) to ESA(c) will be removed. This means that reform will be needed. Many reports have outlined arguments for strengthening the role of contributory benefits. Many of these have focussed on the role that a form of privately run social insurance could play in both increasing benefit generosity and improving the support that individuals get to manage their conditions and move back to work. These wider reforms of ESA would provide a much needed opportunity to revisit these arguments and build a benefit system that is both more supportive and more sustainable in the long term.
Readers, I would like to believe that this could be a good thing. However, I tried that with PIP which was sold to disabled people as ‘focusing on what we can do not what we can’t.”
So far, the stories I have heard about PIP have been bitterly disappointing and have left me with a deep fear of being transferred from my indefinite DLA Award, so now I have strong doubts about these new ideas.