Charities criticise Government plans to push disabled people to work from home
The Government plans to force disabled people and those with mental health issues into work by changing how the ‘work capability assessment’ is carried out.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a consultation into changing the assessment so that those people with disabilities and poor mental health are encouraged to find jobs that involve working from home.
The consultation will review a range of categories in the assessment – representing its first significant update since 2011. These categories are designed to determine what activity people can do and how that affects their ability to work.
This then informs assessors’ decisions on what additional financial support people can receive through their benefits, and if claimants need to do anything to prepare themselves for work.
The consultation’s proposals include updating the categories associated with mobility and social interaction. The Government says this reflects improved employer support in recent years for flexible and home working.
The DWP said “those who were found capable of work preparation activity in light of the proposed changes would receive tailored support, safely helping them to move closer to work and ensuring a significant proportion of people are not automatically excluded from the support available”.
The changes to the criteria have been proposed because the Government want to place fewer people in the ‘limited capability for work-related activity’ (LCWRA) group and more people in the ‘limited capability for work’ (LCW) group. In practice, this means more people will receive less financial support, and will be required to make steps towards work.
About 2.4 million people claiming benefits are currently in the LCWRA group. They receive about £390 a month extra on top of the basic rate of Universal Credit, have no requirement to look or prepare for work, and face no penalties.
According to DWP figures, 14.6% of people in this group were deemed “at substantial risk” – this is often due to a history of self-harm or because they were at risk of suicide.
Those in the LCW group receive less money than those in the LCWRA group and may have to meet certain requirements to prepare for work or face reductions to their benefits.
Anela Anwar, chief executive of anti-poverty Y2K, said: “Government must think again and provide financial stability and support to seriously ill and disabled people on low incomes, not yet more cuts and threats.”
Vicki Nash, associate director of external relations at Mind, said: “While the rising number of people with mental health problems unable to work is extremely concerning, reducing the number of people able to claim sickness benefits is not a magical solution that will make people well enough for work. With these reforms, the UK Government will be taking away much-needed financial support and the breathing space provided by the benefits system when people need it most.
“We know the best way to get people with mental health problems back into work is to offer effective support in the workplace and through well-resourced mental health services, but this is not the approach being taken. A focus on returning to work will mean work coaches being pressured to deliver mental health support, without the proper training, instead of the government delivering an investment in mental health care.
“People are already forced to undertake activities they are too unwell to do, due to inaccuracies in their assessment and a lack of understanding from work coaches, with devastating impacts on their mental health. Today’s proposals could make this even worse. In particular, the changes to the exemption from conditionality for people whose safety would be at substantial risk are incredibly concerning.”