Fit to work, but can't work
The FT reports:
"More than two-thirds of applicants for sickness benefits are being rejected under a new testing regime, casting doubt on the validity of 2.6m existing claimants deemed unfit for work.
According to data seen by several welfare industry figures, up to 90 per cent of applicants are being judged able to work in some regions and placed on unemployment rolls rather than long-term ill-health benefits."
About 65 per cent of applications for incapacity benefit were approved until it was replaced last autumn – suggesting the chances of passing and failing have been reversed under the new ill-health benefit, the “employment and support allowance”."
Between 2010-2013, all existing claimants of incapacity benefit will have these tests.
Lord Freud, the Tory spokesman on welfare, said, "“These are remarkable figures. The tragedy is that it has taken so long to tighten the system, with the effect that hundreds of thousands of people have been locked into long-term dependency.”
Just think this one through...
The first result of this new policy is that people will receive lower benefits, because Jobseekers' Allowance pays less than Employment and Support Allowance. So the new system is taking money from some of the poorest people in our society. (£95.15/week for the higher rate of ESA, compared to £64.30/week for JSA).
According to Freud, that's fine, because rather than being 'locked into long-term dependency', people will be empowered to be able to get a job, and being in work is better for your health, not to mention your bank balance, than being unemployed.
But at a time when unemployment is rising, it is a simple matter of fact that the overwhelming majority of these people won't be able to get a job. Paying people Jobseekers' Allowance and requiring them to look for work does not, in fact, create new jobs. Although one side effect is that it will increase the unemployment figures by up to 1.8 million (if the rejection rate of existing claimants is the same as that of new claimants) over the next four years.
The irony is that the taxpayer doesn't even save any money from reducing the benefit bill. Carrying out these Work Capability Assessments costs money, over £1 billion. Then Job Centre Plus advisers have to be paid to give Work Focused Interviews to people claiming JSA. After six months, private companies get be paid to enrol them in the Flexible New Deal, and paid again to help them search for jobs (and paid again should they actually find a job, and paid again if the person stays in the job for 6 months or more).
There's clearly a problem with the current welfare system, and many people receiving sickness benefits could, in the right circumstances, work. But the welfare reforms won't create the jobs which people with health problems could do. Instead, they are taking from the poor and giving to public sector bureaucrats and private companies which are dependent on corporate welfare.
According to Lord Freud, the way to make people independent is to pay them less money and require them to comply with whatever their adviser tells them to do. It's a very odd definition of 'independence'.