Post by nickd (Mylegal) on Nov 20, 2016 19:11:32 GMT
Employment & Support Allowance
Briefing: Withdrawal of Work Related Activity Component payment
November 20th 2016
By Nick Dilworth
1. Causing unnecessary financial hardship
Cutting the Work Related Activity Group payment will reduce an affected claimant’s income by 30%. The cut from April 2017 will shrink payments for ESA claimants who are newly-deemed fit for "work-related activity" from £102.15 to £73.10 a week.
The government’s rationale for imposing this cruel cut is just plain wrong and furthermore it is based on flawed statistics. The government says around 500,000 claimants are in the Work Related Activity Group with just 1% moving out of the group in a quarter. The DWP’s own figures, between October 2008 and December 2015, confirm that 620,900 new ESA claimants have been assessed in to the Work-Related Activity Group (by month of claim at initial assessment) and a further 490,200 ESA claimants have been transferred from older incapacity benefits (by month of referral) in to the Work-Related Activity Group, making for a total of 1,111,100 placements in the Work-Related Activity Group.
As of February 2016 there were 448,700 claimants in the Work Related Activity Group.
Clearly this shows that over time (October 2008 to December 2015) over 1.1 million claimants have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group following a work capability assessment with less than 0.5 million remaining in the group as of February 2016.
The obvious question is how did over 0.6 million leave the group if only 1% were exiting from the benefit as suggested, in flawed research, by the Reform think tank. Reform have used a combination of static claimant count figures with a continually varying ‘flow’ figure.
“In the quarter to May 2015, just 1 per cent of claimants in the ESA Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) – those deemed able to carry out activity to help them move towards work – left the benefit.”
The Reform research is wrong and misleading.
3. Flawed ideology is no basis for introducing this policy
The government is using flawed ideology to press their case for reform. Reform say:
“international evidence does show that the rate at which sickness benefits are set can have behavioural effects – particularly on claim duration. The Government should therefore set a single rate for out-of-work benefit.”
Reform have almost certainly incorrectly measured the duration of claim in their research. The DWP statistics only show the 'phase' a claimant is in when the claim ends. The claimant may previously have been in another group or may even have been found fit for work with their last payment being one related to the Work Related Activity Group.
Measuring duration by group at the end point of the claim does not mean the same claimant spent their entire duration within that group, it only measures the duration and states the 'Phase' at the point of 'off - flow'.
DWP figures show (using the November 2015 quarter for consistency with the remaining figures in this briefing) that the greatest number of claimants (9,430) leaving Employment & Support Allowance in the Work Related Activity Group are those with a ‘duration’ of between 2 and 5 years. Reform have misunderstood how the same claimant could have spent a long period in the ‘Assessment Phase’ (often a lot longer than the intended 3 months) or in a completely different group.
When it comes to the average weekly amount of money a claimant is on when leaving a claim, Reform has failed to look at how benefits are paid. Payments vary according to whether the claim is contribution based, a mixture of contribution and income based or solely income based. A substantial number of claimants receive nothing at all, these are where claims are made purely for the purpose of topping up a person’s national insurance contributions.
It is entirely sensible that the amount increases with duration. This is because the claimant, after an initial period in the assessment phase, moves in to one of the two main phases (providing they qualify) of Employment & Support Allowance, then in to either the Work Related Activity or Support Group. Employment & Support Allowance is a work replacement benefit in the incapacity range, Reform has conflated this with disability benefits which are paid to claimants with disabled needs (although the two may overlap).
Work replacement benefits are paid because a claimant cannot work due to an incapacity for work, they will have increased costs to meet as a result of being unable to work. Good employers often pay contractual sick pay at a rate equal to their employee's pay or a percentage of it because they know their workers will continue to have to pay out for mortgages, bills, commitments and so forth. Incapacity benefits serve much the same purpose and many claimants will have paid in to the National Insurance scheme believing they will have some protection when they are most in need of it.
The DWP 'average weekly payment' statistics represent the sum total of all different types of ESA payments and show that how this varies from £67.23 per week for lesser duration claims to £98.30 per week for claims of over 5 years in duration. The higher payment will represent those who may have been receiving transitionally protected amounts from being transferred from previous incapacity benefits, some of the amounts will include eligible housing costs (where a mortgage interest payment is made) and ‘premium’ additions which are linked to being in receipt of other qualifying benefits. Payments are far more likely to increase in the case of claimants who have progressive type illnesses, or ones of a long term nature, where disability benefits often go on to be paid; it is this which results in the additional premiums.
In the November 2015 quarter, a total of 190,430 claimants left Employment & Support Allowance, by far the greatest number being in the Assessment Phase with 109,530 claimants ending their claim, 36,370 left in the ‘unknown’ status (which includes those who receive a nil payment), 28,430 left in the Support Group and 16,100 left in the Work Related Activity Group.
The ideology that claimants stay on benefits because of an incentive related to higher payments is well worn and not related to any substantial evidence. Those who have serious more long term illness are more likely to need the additional support recognised by the structure of additional payments for those in need.
It’s also the case that international comparisons are fraught with difficulty, especially when the government conflates an expenditure argument based on how much we pay out for disability benefits. To be clear incapacity and disability are not the same. Other countries all use different systems with some employers taking a more responsible role whilst others rely on private healthcare insurance.
4.The blame game - it's the government who is at fault.
The policy behind these cuts points the finger at the claimant rather than the system which has failed them.
Between October 2008 and December 2015, 2,986,000 new claimants have been assessed (by month of claim), 1,767,200 were assessed at a repeat assessment and 1,428,400 claimants from older incapacity benefits have all been tested under one of the strictest regimes; a total of 6,181,600 completed assessments and the 2.5 million claimant count has barely fallen. This supports claimants in their assertion that they are as ill as they claimed and the government measures to help them in to work have failed.
There is a deep rooted problem with reading sets of Employment & Support Allowance statistics in isolation. You have to factor in what happened to the claimant following an assessment. This is where re-claims and appeals factor highly and also, in the case of the Work Related Activity Group, where group re-allocations (particularly in to the Support Group) have to be considered.
In saying that people stay on Employment & Support Allowance because of the financial incentive in receiving an extra £30 per week payment, the government omits to make it clear that people have had to pass a strict test to qualify for a placement in to the Work Related Activity Group, and what’s more 1.7 million repeat assessments show that in the vast majority of cases 79% of these claimants continue to qualify (measured to December 2015).
5. The Work Programme doesn’t work.
Well it certainly didn’t for those who are incapacitated from the work place. If we take those on incapacity benefits who have ended up in the Work Related Activity Group, the total number of job outcomes achieved via the government Work Programme is just 3,380 for the entire country over a period from June 2011 to June 2016.
It’s a dreadful result when you consider that in the period from March 2011 to December 2015 a total of 1,428,400 claimants in the incapacity reassessment programme have been assessed under the Work Capability Assessment with 490,200 being placed in the Work Related Activity Group. Yet this is one of the ‘more difficult’ payment groups where Work Programme providers were paid higher amounts on a ‘payment by results’ basis. The most difficult groups would attract payments of in excess of £13,000 per person if the claimant was helped in to a job.
In my estimation this shows the catastrophic failure of the Work Programme, despite exceptionally generous result based payments a fraction of those placed in to the Work Related Activity Group were helped in to a job.
This has to be down to either provider failure or a deeply rooted problem in getting employers to take people on. It’s not the fault of the claimant that Work Programme providers have not been able to come up with the results and nor is it their fault that employers don’t want to take incapacitated claimants on.
Opening up the Work Programme to all claimants we can see it has been more successful in other areas:
Of the 1,831,120 claimants (all including jobseekers) the Work Programme claims to have succeeded in finding 537,810 claimants a job outcome.
How does this compare with all other incapacitated sets?
Incapacity Payment Groups
PG 4: JSA Ex-Incapacity Benefits
PG 5: ESA Volunteers
PG 6: New ESA Customers 3/6 Mth Prognosis
PG 6: New ESA Customers 12 Mth Prognosis
PG 7: ESA Ex-Incapacity Benefits
PG 8: IB/IS Volunteers
Looking at this in percentage terms
Remember this is only a percentage of the total incapacity cohort related job outcomes via the Work Programme from June 2011 to June 2016.
The chart shows the most successful group (as far as this analysis goes) is the New ESA customer group (38%) with a prognosis of 3/6 months. This is the group which is arguably the most helped and nearest to the labour market due to short term illness or incapacity, followed by the longer term but still within 12 month prognosis at 19% but bear in mind how these should also be measured against the numbers attached. Although 'PG 8: IB/IS Volunteers' is shown as only 2% when measured against all job outcomes, it takes on a much better degree of success when you consider that of the 2,860 claimants attached; 750 end up with a job outcome. In terms of attachment against job outcome the percentage in group 8 becomes 26.5%; all percentages are relevant.
6. The government's reform is based on biased research?
I'd challenge, given the dreadful Work Programme's record on helping incapacitated claimants in to work, Reform's faith in private providers "Outsourced welfare-to-work programmes have proven to be an effective model. They allow diversity of provision through supply chains of specialist providers, can flex to accommodate different referral volumes and can ensure financial risk is shifted from the taxpayer to the provider. The design of the programme is, however, key to maximising the benefit of outsourced provision. The payment structure must incentivise the outcomes government seeks, whilst remaining commercially viable for providers."
I would also challenge Charlotte Pickles closeness to the government when asserting that "Reform is politically independent, with an MP of each of the main Parties on our Advisory Board. Some people call us “centre-right” because of our interest in value for money in public spending. The best description is “liberal” with a small l."
Surely this degree of political and commercial involvement predisposes Reform to coming out on government's side when professing to be 'politically independent'?
Politicians of all political persuasions should oppose the government's plans to axe a third of the income of sick benefit claimants because it is unjust and likely to drive genuinely ill people in to financial despair. The claimant's affected have already had to go through a waiting period of several months before they are assessed, they do so on an amount which is equivalent to the basic allowance paid to jobseekers. The additional component payment is only paid to claimants who have been assessed and meet the criterion.
After going through a very strict 'Work Capability Assessment', claimants are only placed in the Work Related Activity Group if they can show that they meet very rigid descriptor scoring or in some cases they may qualify on account of being at substantial risk or harm if expected to undertake work (regulation 29 of the Employment & Support Allowance Regulations relevant to exceptional circumstances in limited capability for work cases).
The affected group are often wrongly placed, many have to go on and apply for placement in to the Support Group because they are unable to cope with the conditionality expected when undertaking 'work related activity'. Around 47% of claimants in the affected group have a mental health condition *, it is also important to consider how all new Employment & Support Allowance claimants have to be signed off as unfit to work by their doctors before they can apply.
Imposing further financial pressure on this group of claimants is likely to cause them exceptional anxiety and ignores the fact that many have paid in to the social security system after years of work paying national insurance contributions. The government has inappropriately conflated Employment & Support Allowance with disability benefits when it should instead treat the allowance as a work replacement benefit for those who are unable to work through illness. It is fundamentally unfair to play with human lives in this way by introducing further illogical and irrational reforms based on little more than flawed research and ideology dreamt up by biased right wing think tanks who have a scant regard for the facts.
Th work capability assessment regime has been a source of continual controversy with endless accounts of people being harmed or in the most drastic of cases being driven to their deaths. The government should accept its chronic failure in badly managing the Work Programme and immediately bring an end to this unhealthy culture of wagging the finger of blame at sick people rather than at their own inept reforms. A far more constructive dialogue needs to be struck up with potential employers, this must go way beyond talking of disability confidence, instead the government should be listening carefully to the people most affected and learning far more of the real barriers which distance them from the workplace. Taking more money off the sick is no answer and will in no way create sufficient savings to implement truly effective reforms properly. Massive investment and employer education is the answer, the government should look at taking money out of the profit driven corporate sector to do this properly.
Politicians must reject these cuts in their entirety, they are completely avoidable and will do nothing to assist in making for better social protection of those most in need.
* As of February 2016, of 448,700 claimants in the Work Related Activity group, 226,470 had a mental /behavioural problem (International Classification of Disease Coding)
government Work Programme is just 3,380 for the entire country over a period from June 2011 to June 2016. and i bet that was on stacking shelves program at tescos b&m poundland those peskier charity shops hiden away ouch