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New work capability assessment proposals “utterly unworkable”

Thursday, 12 January 2023 Mind

Reports in The Times (paywalled) today suggest the Department for Work and Pensions are considering major changes to how the benefits system functions for people who are unwell.

One of the changes being considered is stopping work capability assessments, with proposals suggesting that instead they should be replaced with new evaluations which will “encourage claimants to show what work they are capable of taking.”

Comments in the media suggest ministers think there is a “perverse incentive to prove how sick you are” under the current assessment system.

Another change trailed, but with little detail, would allow people returning to work potentially being able to keep some of their benefits.

Commenting on the changes, Vicki Nash, Head of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs at Mind, said:

“Scrapping work capability assessments to replace them with a system which seems to be aimed at forcing people to show how they can return to the workforce is utterly unworkable.

“The majority of people with mental health problems who are benefit recipients and don’t access employment support can’t do so because they need to focus on their health, and are not ready to work. But even for those who would consider taking employment advice, the fear created by the unjust benefit sanctions system can make it feel too risky to trust the DWP to be able to support them. Unless the DWP removes the threat of sanctions, they will continue to struggle getting people who might be able to return to employment to take up support.

“Another change trailed today which would allow people to retain some of their benefits while starting work is potentially welcome. However, more detail is needed before it’s possible to judge if these changes will be positive. We have argued that the DWP should create a simple process by which disabled people who stop claiming ESA or Universal Credit due to trying paid work, can return to their previous benefit entitlement and conditionality group, within a year, without a work capability assessment.

“The work capability assessment does need significant reform. The UK government’s approach to employment support must be led by the needs and wishes of people with mental health problems themselves, giving them choice and control over their own support. To reform benefits assessments, the DWP should establish a commission led by disabled people to determine how they can be improved.”

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