Guest post: The Benefit System: Does the DLA Discourage Employment?

The Benefit System: Does the DLA Discourage Employment?
Switalskis Employment Law


People claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for various reasons from arthritis, to alcoholism. It is intended to help people to cover the costs of their illness and is not just a benefit for those who are out of work. It is not means tested and is available to all.

How is DLA Connected to Employment?

The last Labour Government introduced an independent medical assessment for those wishing to claim Incapacity Benefit (IB). IB compensates those who are unable to work due to illness. The introduction of this assessment has made it clear that there are many in receipt of IB who are able to work and who should not receive it.

While those who receive IB are all unemployed, the same cannot be said for those in receipt of DLA. The Government however is of the view that receipt of DLA can be a factor that discourages those who are able to work, from seeking employment.

Potential discrimination in the workplace is a further factor that could discourage those who are in receipt of DLA from becoming employed. However there are many legal safeguards to protect disabled employees from discrimination and firms can assist if disabled employees believe they are the victims of discrimination.

The Current System

The current system for assessing DLA is a mainly paper exercise and there are concerns that this can result in a number of claims that are not genuine. In only a small percentage of cases are potential claimants medically assessed to ensure that the information provided on the form is genuine? However, the volume of paperwork that is currently required can have a significant impact on potential claimants, particularly those who are also looking after a sick relative or child. There is little doubt that the system is in need of reform but it is important that claimants with a genuine need do not feel alienated because of the desire to find who should not be entitled.

Plans for Reform

The Government plans to reform DLA by introducing a new form of independent medical assessment which will reduce the number of people entitled to the benefit and ensure that only those who really need it, receive it.

The number of people in receipt of DLA has increased to three million from one million in 1992. This could be because of factors such as medical advances and an ageing population. At the same time there has been a reduction in those claiming IB which could be because an independent medical assessment has been introduced for this benefit. However, it is unclear whether those who have been declared medically fit for work then go on to be in employment or whether they are still claiming other unemployment benefits as well as DLA.

It is not thought that the very existence of DLA discourages employment, however the question has to be asked, whether it is right that those who have had their IB stopped because they are deemed to be fully able, yet are still unemployed, should continue to receive another benefit that is intended to help those with a disability? It is this imbalance that the Government is trying to address while ensuring that the DLA remains in place for those who really need it.

This post was written on behalf of Employment Advice Law who are solicitors in Wakefield

7 thoughts on “Guest post: The Benefit System: Does the DLA Discourage Employment?

  1. It’s hard to know where to start, but here goes:

    “The last Labour Government introduced an independent medical assessment for those wishing to claim Incapacity Benefit (IB).”

    No it didn’t. There has always been an assessment. What they actually did was change the criteria in an entirely arbitrary way so that many people with disabilities are nevertheless excluded from benefit (now renamed ESA.)

    “The introduction of this assessment has made it clear that there are many in receipt of IB who are able to work and who should not receive it.”

    It hasn’t, because that result was predetermined by the redefining of the criteria, so it would be circular to say the new test has ‘made it clear’. The test does not actually test ability to work. It tests the claimant against an arbitrary list of descriptors. If you match enough descriptors to get 15 points, you ‘pass’. If not, you don’t. Actual ability to work in the real world is irrelevant. The new test was designed so that fewer people would pass. This is how we got to the situation of ATOS (the testing contractor) firing people from their jobs on grounds of poor health, only to then test them again for ESA and fail them.

    “The Government however is of the view that receipt of DLA can be a factor that discourages those who are able to work, from seeking employment.”

    They seem to have said this, but I can only find Google results ridiculing the idea. Since DLA is not affected by work, it does not make sense. Why not attack child benefit (also not affected by work) on the same basis?

    “The Government plans to reform DLA by introducing a new form of independent medical assessment which will reduce the number of people entitled to the benefit and ensure that only those who really need it, receive it.”

    See above. The new assessment will do no such thing – it will be based on the same points-based approach and will arbitrarily reduce the numbers entitled by whatever amount is pre-determined.

    “however the question has to be asked, whether it is right that those who have had their IB [sic] stopped because they are deemed to be fully able..”

    The ESA test does not even attempt to assess whether someone is ‘fully able’ to work – see above. It is quite possible to have serious medical problems and work limitations and yet not score 15 points. This is intentional as the modern theory is to move people with only some limitations onto JSA instead. For example, someone disabled such that they cannot lift a bag of books (or anything heavier than a large glass of water) may still score only 6 or even 0 points and be (correctly, if you accept the criteria) thrown off ESA.

    If lifting things was their job, they have a problem, as employers may not (and in the current climate, definitely will not) find them suitable for other jobs, so in theory they may not be entitled to JSA either by the strict letter of the law (though mercifully this seems to be ignored in practice). To suggest that one must then question their DLA entitlement as well on the basis of this apparent ‘fitness’ is callous or misguidedly over-simplistic.

  2. @Red Odd – it works fine for me. The response is a bit too lengthy to fit in the comments here. The TL;DR version is “This argument doesn’t make sense, principally because fitness to work and long term disability are two entirely different things. DLA is designed to help people meet the extra costs of disability, and as such is an aid to the hundreds of thousands of working people with disabilities who claim. PIP may well have a negative impact upon the ability of the long term disabled to work when it comes in by removing this vital support.”

  3. There is no reason at all why there shouldn’t be a benefit to help people whether they are in work or not. The costs of living with a disability are much higher, why shouldn’t there be a benefit to try and balance that for disabled people, whether they are able to work or not?

  4. Are you aware of the current rates of pay for DLA, for I can assure you that they are not enough to live off. The current rates are WELL below minimum wage, so the assumption that those in receipt of DLA are discouraged from employment are frankly preposterous. If anything, the receipt of DLA is often treated as a “top-up” for those who are disabled and can only work part-time for example and the DLA acts as a way as bridging the gap between full-time and part-time pay. Furthermore DLA is a nominal monthly sum which is intended for use for extra travel expenses or modifications to one’s home. It is certainly not enough to live off. Furthermore, it is not just a paper form, once the form has been received by the DWP, they contact your GP who either confirms or disputes the evidence in the form. It is lengthy and time consuming process and certainly not one which takes 20 minutes that everyone can fill out! If you wish to write some inflammatory articles please do your research first.

  5. Charon QC has placed this comment from the original guest writer:

    “While compiling the argument, the majority of the data was taken from this source:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9264729/Benefits-the-disabled-and-deserving.html

    The argument was based around this imbalance and proposed resolution of those who are undeserved claimants. There is no doubt that many deserve it and instead need more praise for doing so – and this of course embodies the characteristics of this country – equality and fairness.

    This post was only an extension of the news article referenced so having counterarguments is what debate is all about – so thank you for furthering it.”

    Thank you

    Denver

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