Incapacity benefit reforms treated with caution

Employers, unions and disability groups have given a cautious welcome to government plans to overhaul incapacity benefit (IB) and get people back into employment.

In a series of announcements, the Department for Work and Pensions outlined wide-ranging reforms to the benefit and how claimants will be encouraged back to work.

This includes an expansion of its Pathways to Work pilot, a 40 return-to-work tax credit, a ‘rehabilitation support allowance’, and putting specialist ’employment advisers’ in GP surgeries.

The TUC said if the reforms genuinely helped people who were able and wanted to get back into employment, they could only be welcomed. But general secretary, Brendan Barber, said the government needed to ensure it was about constructive support and not a crackdown or “to be tough to punish the workshy”.

The Disability Rights Commission said claimants would need high-quality support, particularly when it came to assessing fitness to work, if the reforms were to work.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development predicted that one in three IB claimants could be brought back into work, but only if an “appropriate mix of support and pressure is applied to them”.

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