Private Business Intermediaries

Changes in ESA and Disabilities Benefits May Force People to Take Jobs They Do Not Want

01/02/2013 | By Sharmila Chauhan
New rules for Income and Support Allowance come into play this week. Eligibility for the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) (which replaced incapacity benefit in 2008) has previously been subject to a Work Capability Assessment. This is carried out on the behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions and helps to determine capability to work and subsequent awards of  ESA.

Independent assessment of the current system has shown that it needed to change. The government has reviewed the procedure and new rules around eligibility for patients with cancer, mental health and fluctuating conditions have been developed.

Patients with cancer will now no longer have to be subject to stressful medical assessment and back to work interviews during treatment. The cancer charity MacMilllian who have led the change, have welcomed the news. This new rule, which does not apply to all types of cancer, means that patients can concentrate on getting well without the added stress of trying to ensure that they are entitled to benefits.

There will also be changes in the way people with mental and physical disabilities will be scored. New rules will score physical and mental issues separately, will stipulate in which conditions scoring can be carried out and in which category. For instance a person who has a chronic bad back will only get scored on the physical problem, regardless of whether chronic pain has had an effect on their emotional wellbeing. In contrast, victims of car crashes will be scored on both the physical and mental issues around the incident. This may mean that people who are suffering – may not get the benefits they need because they do not score high enough. People applying for benefits may also be asked to take medication (if it is available) or take alternative jobs that make the most of their existing abilities. Critics of the new rules say that they will force people into taking jobs they don’t want and medication that they don’t need.