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Benefits Shake-Up - Get To Work

Aug 28, 2008
The government have announced plans to shake up the way benefits work. New legislation due to be enforced as early as October means thousands of Brits, living off incapacity benefit will be forced to give up their benefits and find other ways to sustain life.

Currently, anyone wishing to submit an incapacity benefit claim needs to see their GP for a long-term sickness form. It can often be difficult for GPs to determine how incapacitated claimants really are, and have to largely rely on their word.

Candidates can receive up to 76 pounds a week in benefits if their claim is successful, and once this long-term sickness form is gained, they can carry on claiming forever.

Under a new system, anyone claiming incapacity benefit will have to undergo a number of tests to ensure they are unfit to work, measured by what they are able to do rather than what they cannot. They will be required to take opportunities to work or face benefit sanctions, with only those completely unable to work being allowed to not work.

This means that even if your Community Psychiatric Nurse, Psychiatrist and GP think you are unfit to work, the Department of Work and Pensions will make it's own assessment on your ability.

Even those attempting to claim Job Seekers Allowance will be put through more intense scrutiny before being awarded the allowance, as the government tries to reduce unemployment rates. The amount paid in JSA went down this year, despite rising inflation and increased costs of petrol, food and other amenities.

People on incapacity benefit need to be fit in mind and body to work, and it is thought that unless some sort of daily activity is undertaken by these people, their mind and body will deteriorate further. The DWP aims to even get those unable to work to take part in community projects which will help them become more active.

Secretary for the DWP James Purnell said that he wanted to see private firms given contracts to find those on benefits jobs, in the hope that this will get many of those dependant on welfare back to work.

Some people have been quick to criticise the plans, suggesting that those eligible-for but not claiming benefits is a bigger problem than many realise. If anything, they argue, benefit payouts need to increase as those who deserve and are eligible for benefits are educated about their entitlement.

The new system will see just two benefits on offer - Employment Support Allowance for those with medical problems which limit their ability to work, and JobSeekers' Allowance for those who are fit to work. James Purnell talks about the need for an "active welfare state". He intends to push employment up to 80% from 75%. Some are sceptical that this is possible during an economic downturn.
About the Author
John McE writes on behalf of Carewatch, one of the leading providers of care and support to people in their own homes.
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