Peter Hoskin

The coalition’s big choice on Incapacity Benefit

The coalition's big choice on Incapacity Benefit
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The coalition's plan for moving claimants off Incapacity Benefit and into work is, at heart, an admirable one.  For too long, IB has been used a political implement for massaging the overall unemployment figures, and it has allowed thousands of people to wrongly stay unemployed at the taxpayers' expense.  There is, quite simply, a moral and economic case for reform.

But that doesn't mean that Professor Paul Gregg's comments in the Times today should be ignored.  Gregg is one of the architects of the current system for moving claimants off IB, and he raises stark concerns about how that system is currently operating.  The main problem, he says, is the medical test for determining who, and who doesn't, deserve the benefit.  As the Times puts it:

"…thousands of vulnerable people with terminal cancer, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and clinical depression have had their applications rejected and told to look for work … about 8,000 people a month are now challenging the decision at an employment tribunal and almost half are winning cases."

Of course, we'll only know whether the coalition's system will operate smoothly when we see it in practice.  But there could be a case for waiting until that review is complete before kicking the process off.  A series of workfare horror stories this autumn, and the public mood could swiftly turn against this most important set of reforms.

P.S. Paul Goodman has some important thoughts here.