The government is to publish plans in the summer to scrap Incapacity Benefit and replace it with a system focused on helping people into work, according to work and pensions minister Alan Johnson.
The government’s approach to tackling Incapacity Benefit was set out in a five-year strategy launched in February. It included plans to replace Incapacity Benefit with two new benefits – Rehabilitation Support Allowance and Disability and Sickness Allowance – and scrap the incremental increase in rates that was seen to be a disincentive to leaving the benefit.
Speaking at the New Beginnings Symposium, Johnson said the plans would sweep aside a system that branded the 2.7 million recipients of the benefit as incapable and help claimants to focus on what they can do, rather than what they cannot.
A Green Paper in the summer will start a formal consultation about how the replacement benefit system will operate, the role of personal advisers and what people will be required to do in the future to access the higher rates of benefit. It will also explore what safeguards and appeals processes should be in the system.
“In the summer we will set out in detail in a Green Paper how we will radically change the benefit system so it reflects all that we have learned about the needs of those on Incapacity Benefit,” Johnson said.
“Together – working with employers, GPs, special interest groups and claimants themselves – we can replace the sicknote culture with one of hope and opportunity.” The annual bill for Incapacity Benefit is £7.7bn.
Johnson laid out four key areas for consideration:
- Fairness – what should be the content of the “return to work activities” that we recognise as beneficial in helping people with health conditions to get back to work.
- Security – how to minimise the risks people face when they want to move into work and ensure that they have every incentive possible to try out work.
- Inclusion – how to ensure that the Disability Sickness Allowance does not mean that people are written off or have no interest in working but recognises the severity of their conditions.
- Results for all – what features the system needs to ensure that it works effectively for people with mental health conditions.
To inform the Green Paper write with comments to:
Incapacity Benefit Reform Team
1-11 John Adam Street