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Government Officials Declare a Comprehensive Revamp of Disability Benefits Evaluation System

The government has announced plans to overhaul sickness benefits as part of its mission to support more people into work.

In its first update since 2011, the new system is meant to encourage people, who had previously been deemed too sick to work, to find fitting jobs.

A consultation, launched by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on Tuesday, will consider changes to how people’s capability to work is assessed.

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Under new proposals, ministers will decide how the WCA and the categories it uses can be updated.

Claimants who are deemed unfit to work because it could put them at risk to themselves or others, fall into the “substantial risk category.” The government said it will examine whether the application of this category has been used too broadly.

The consultation also looks to update categories, associated with mobility and social interaction. As a result, people with mobility problems, or those who suffer anxiety within the workplace, could be deemed fit for flexible and/or home working.

“Health assessments haven’t been reviewed in more than a decade and don’t reflect the realities of the world of work today,” said work and pensions secretary Mel Stride.

Policy executive at the British Chambers of Commerce Jane Gratton said that businesses across the country “businesses are crying out for workers to fill job vacancies” and employers “want to be as flexible as possible.”

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr. Stride said that reform was necessary for the benefit of the disabled people and the economy.

The government anticipates that spending on employment support allowance and the Universal Credit health support will rise from £25.9 billion to £29.2 billion in the next four years.

According to DWP, there are currently around 2.45 million people on benefits with “limited capability for work-related activity” or “support group” status, which mean claimants will not have to look for work, or to prepare for work.

Research shows, however, that one in five people, who are currently on sickness benefits, would like to work at some point in the future.
Downing Street has pointed out that government investment into supporting schemes, such as the Disability Confident scheme, helps millions find jobs and work for companies, like Ford, Sainsbury’s, Hilton and Coca-Cola.

Under the proposed changes, disabled people, found capable of work, will received tailored support to their individual circumstances.

Minister Tom Pursglove said this will benefit both the disabled people, seeking work, and the economy overall.

Responding to the consultation announcement, disability equality charity Scope has urged the government to ensure new employment support is “flexible, and voluntary.”

Strict conditions will remove the safety net from huge numbers of disabled people in the middle of a brutal cost of living crisis, Scope said.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) said that changes to the WCA system must reflect real-world barriers for deaf people and people with hearing loss. Remote working hasn’t removed these barriers, said RNID policy lead Rob Geaney.

He called on the government to work with RNID beyond the eight-week consultation period on any changes to eligibility criteria.

The proposed changes are due to come into force in 2025. With a general election looming in 2024, Rishi Sunak’s government could see the policy dropped, should Labour claim victory and decide against the welfare changes.

Under the Conservative government, from 2017 to 2022, the number of disabled people in employment increased by 1.3 million.

In 2022, the government marked this milestone by announcing a further £1.3 billion in employment support for disabled people and people with health conditions by 2025.

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