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