Friday 10 September 2010

800,000 claimants face losing their incapacity benefit – The Times, Friday 10 September 2010

800,000 claimants face losing their incapacity benefit – The Times, Friday 10 September 2010*
George Osborne: said to be demanding up to £10 billion more from the £170 billion social security budget

Jill Sherman Whitehall Editor

Hundreds of thousands of people are likely to lose sickness benefits under a new assault on the welfare state, The Times has learnt.

The Treasury is considering means-testing incapacity benefit — given to those considered too sick to work — a change under which 800,000 people on modest to high incomes would lose it altogether. The entitlement, which is available to those who have paid national insurance contributions, costs the taxpayer more than £6.5 billion a year and goes to more than 2.5 million people.

Millions of disabled and sick people have been on the benefit — which is between £68 and £96 a week — for years and are able to stay on it until they retire, irrespective of their income or that of their partner.

Disability and poverty groups warned yesterday that means-testing would fly in the face of the principle of paying national insurance to fund benefits. They argued that the disabled and mentally ill were becoming the main victims of the Treasury’s spending cuts.

“It would be grossly unfair if someone who had worked for over 30 years and had paid [national insurance] throughout suddenly found the benefit taken away at the moment they needed it,” said Sue Royston, social policy officer for Citizens Advice.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has agreed to £11 billion savings a year. But George Osborne, the Chancellor, is said to be demanding up to £10 billion more from the £170 billion social security budget. Mr Osborne indicated yesterday that he had already identified £4 billion affecting those on “out-of-work benefits”.

“People who think it’s a lifestyle choice to just sit on out-of-work benefits — that lifestyle choice is going to come to an end. The money won’t be there,” he said.

One Whitehall official told The Times that means-testing incapacity benefit, which could save up to £2 billion a year, was being considered. “We are seeking more on incapacity benefit,” he conceded. “If more cuts are made to the welfare budget we should be able to reduce the bigger cutbacks to other Whitehall departments.”

Other benefits under threat include those going to pensioners, such as winter fuel payments and TV allowances, which could save £2.7 billion if scrapped.

Under the latest plans being considered, those on incapacity benefit — or employment and support allowance, which is replacing it — would receive it for a time-limited period of six months to a year. After this, those on higher incomes — generally those with working partners — would lose the benefit, and those on lower incomes would lose part of it. Those on the lowest incomes would still receive income support.

Mrs Royston argued that people would lose all entitlement to incapacity benefit if their partner had an income of about £8,000 a year or had savings of more than £16,000, if the present rules for other means-tested benefits were applied.

“This is causing enormous concern,” she said. “If someone who has worked for years became seriously ill and his partner earned over £150 a week, he would get nothing, despite his contributions.”

Treasury officials believe that many people remain on sickness benefits until they retire even if they could do some type of work.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics, published this week, show that in more than 840,000 households all members of the household over 16 are too sick to work. In a further 612,000 households, at least one member is too sick to work.

The Government is already clamping down on payments to the disabled and has pledged to introduce more rigorous medical tests for all incapacity benefit claimants by next March, but the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is already having trouble finding enough doctors to carry out the checks.

The severely disabled, who receive disability living allowance to help to pay for carers, are also facing medical tests for the first time.

Sources at the DWP yesterday made it clear that negotiations were still going on but did not rule out reducing or scrapping benefits for those on higher incomes. “We are presently looking at a range of options for welfare reform and any decisions will be made in the context of the spending review,” a spokesman said. “Our reforms will ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected.”

Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of Scope, the disability charity, condemned the plans to means-test incapacity benefit, claiming that people would be denied the support they had paid for.

“People will effectively be penalised for working hard, saving and contributing to society,” Mr Hawkes said. “The Government has made much of its commitment to ensuring that the impact of cost savings is spread fairly, but this feels like another example of disabled people bearing the brunt of cuts.”

*No link provided as The Times is now behind a paywall.


  1. I’m waiting for the government to reclassify DLA as income. It really is a scary time to be disabled in Britain. We’re not going back to the 1980s; we’re going back to the 1780s.

  2. I've recently become Disabled. It's taken 3 years to diagnose my condition by consultants at my local nhs hospital - but I've now been diagnosed with two forms of Epilepsy, Anxiety and a form of Aspergers.

    Right now the DWP hasn't recognised my conditions at all! -as "as I can walk and am able to get around" they've had me on Job Seekers Allowance Income Support, and as I've been on this for a just over a year, I now have to go on to their 'work trial's' programme. If I don't go on this then they will CUT my benefit.

    Also - on my JSA agreement form, they have put me down as a 'Driver', and are asking me to apply for driving jobs! - just think, the DWP Job Centre Plus think people with Epilepsy.. are alright to drive!

    Last week I went on the online benefit advisor, and checked to see if I am on the right benefit.. guess what? I'm not! I should be on Income Support not JSA. I asked about this last week in a JCP office, but they couldn't help me or advise me on this this change, as they want to keep me on JSA.

    I'm finding out how hard it is for people with Disability's who are unemployed due to their situation.

    Is it fair to cut benefit's for people with disability's? - I think NOT!


    Here's some news that the Department for Work and Pensions have kept
    from talking to you about!

    Since 2006, the DWP have been offering SEX TRADE jobs and SEX TRADE employment to claimants on Job Seekers Allowance ! I know this as I've been trying to campaign to STOP this over the past 2 years.

    The DWP have a consultation that you can view and download, follow these links:

    The Consultation closed in August 2010.

    But.. SEX JOBS are still being advertised at lots of Job Centre Plus offices throughout the UK!

  3. This is terrifying. If they did use that type of means-testing then we would be in trouble because my partner makes over £8K a year. Never mind that, like many people these days, he lacks job security. Never mind that he himself has undiagnosed health problems which put his income and the roof over our heads at risk if they get worse.

    What a wonderful time it is to be disabled in the UK.

  4. It's a bit off-topic, downiesamaim, but I just wanted to make a quick point in response to your comment: OBJECT has recently been successful in its campaign against sex trade ads in JobCentres. They are no longer allowed.

  5. Why is it that groups claiming to represent taxpayers are not up in arms about benefits being denied to people who have paid tax for years? Money is taken from earnings with the promise that it'll be there if needed. To refuse to give it back is plain and simple theft.

    I love that sentence "The money won't be there". Really? Where's it gone then? As if I need to ask. So who will be contracted to sweep up the corpses of disabled people who weren't able to "pull themselves together" that will litter the streets? Some subdivision of Atos probably. Nice little earner... 0_0

  6. Losing this benefit doesn't mean I suddenly lose my disability.

    @downiesamaim I think you need a new advisor, have you spoke to your local CAB about it? They are so helpful & you may get free help with being on JSA anyway. If not your council may have free advice services too.

  7. "Why is it that groups claiming to represent taxpayers are not up in arms about benefits being denied to people who have paid tax for years? Money is taken from earnings with the promise that it'll be there if needed. To refuse to give it back is plain and simple theft."

    That's an excellent point. The Taxpayers Alliance is doing my head in.

  8. @Anne: The one thing that worries me about that argument is "what about the people that have never been able to work?"

    There's a lot of "but I paid taxes! I should get that money back!" It concerns me that when that's the only point people focus on that a large group of disabled people are being unrepresented thus left even more vulnerable to attack.

  9. @Lisa "what about the people that have never been able to work?"

    They still pay VAT. We're all tax-payers.

  10. downiesamaim - you can complain about benefits without shaming, and hating on, sex-workers. Everyone does what they have to do to survive. If a 20 year old woman has a great body and can dance, surely she's better off working as a lap-dancer than being on the dole? Could be that she has a learning disability that makes her sub-literate or innumerate - again, better off dancing than trying to get ESA - I know which option I think is less likely to result in a lack of dignity and feelings of degradation.

  11. @elburto: And that's where I draw the line. The sex industry is NEVER a better option for any woman, and the sex industry is ALWAYS more degrading than claiming benefit. That's a constant no matter the physical appearance or educational attainment level of the women concerned. This flippant attitude of 'sure, why shouldn't she, stop hating' is bull. When women are forced into the sex industry by lack of any other means of survival it's an outrage, not just an 'oh well, she has a nice ass and she's probably dumb anyway'.

    From someone whk worked in the sex industry for three years.

  12. Blu - some women CHOOSE the sex industry, yes shocking I know, women have their own minds! Who'd have thought?

    When dancers, escorts and the like are forced to:

    -Answer how they piss and shit, and how often

    -Be dragged to inaccessible offices to attend humiliating compulsory examinations, while vomiting incessantly, and being treated like a subhuman idiot with questions like "Do you watch Eastenders? Would you work if you could?" that are allegedly asked to determine whether someone is genuinely ill.

    -Be made poorer (to the tune of negative income) by the DWP making errors and then deleting evidence causing loss of every single benefit and then 'arrears' charges, despite evidence of entitlement, and then have that entitlement reinstated only to have the DWP break the DPO and use a bank account from a 2002 case file, thereby handing money to a bank that refuses to refund it

    and ultimately

    -become homeless, as well as have no income, because the chronic incurable conditions they have are not compatible with the phrase "Appeals must be made in writing within seven days"

    Then, and only then, will I believe that sex work (voluntary sex work, not involving trafficked workers, or force, or drugs) is MORE degrading and humiliating than being a benefit recipient in the UK. If I could've sold myself then I would have, because it would've been infinitely preferable to the indignities and abuse, not to mention the whole circular "You can't have benefits, you have no fixed address - but you can't have a home unless you have money" argument, that homelessness involves.

    If I'm ever anywhere near that situation again, then suicide will be my sole option. Tell me that is better than being a pole-dancer with a straight face. Go on.

  13. @elburto - So you're telling me I shouldn't have ever felt suicidal after having worked in the sex industry? That I should've been happy to avoid the DWP instead? I think that you don't really have a clue as to what working in the sex industry is actually like. If you have the idea that it's some sort of liberating, woman-taking-charge-making-own-decisions thing, you're barking up the wrong tree.

    Whilst I think the way the DWP treats people is terrible, a grilling at their hands is not having to pay £60 for your place at the pole, being fined £50 for being late and another £50 for not trying hard enough. It's not having to allow yourself to be groped day in and day out by drunken prats who complain to your boss and have you fined yet again for not accommodating the customer. The DWP don't stop your money if you refuse to screw them, and all their friends, preferably whilst they're all standing around laughing, spitting on you and calling you names. And that's before you get into the likes of 'escort' work, where you're effectively employed to never say no. You probably think this sort of thing is a one-off, but it's the very basis of the industry - and even those who choose to go into it without being coralled by a dominant boyfriend or a lack of money soon realise it's not the happy-clappy fun it's painted out to be in the press.

    Sorry, but I've been on both sides - claimant and sex worker - and to say that the DWP's treatment is worse is bull.

  14. WTF? Umm, 2.65 million people will be losing Incapacity Benefit. They'll be forcibly migrated across to ESA over the next two years.