Crippen – Heartless reforms to disability benefits defy logic

“Heartless” government reforms that will eventually scrap the “fitness for work” assessment “defy logic” and pose significant risks to sick and disabled people who cannot work, say activists who have fought for years to highlight the test’s fatal flaws.

In a nutshell, benefit claimants with significant impairments or long-term health conditions could face stricter conditions imposed by their work coach, including further benefit sanctions if they are unable to meet them.

The decision to scrap the work capability assessment (WCA), which has been blamed for countless deaths and years of harm caused to claimants since its introduction in 2008, was the centrepiece of a new disability benefits white paper published last week. The decision will mean disabled people who were previously assessed as not needing to carry out any work-related activity will in the future have to rely on the judgement of jobcentre work coaches to “determine what, if any, work-related activities an individual can participate in”.

The long-awaited white paper, Transforming Support, was published nearly four years after the government first announced it intended to reform support for disabled people who rely on the social security system.

But Ellen Clifford, disabled activist and author of the award-winning The War on Disabled People, was among many who raised serious safety concerns about their plans.

Ellen told John Pring, Editor of Disability News Service:

“After over a decade of fighting against the WCA, disabled campaigners should be celebrating the news. But we’re not – we are terrified of what is next!”

She said the measures were instead being introduced because of the failure of the WCA to reduce the number of disabled people who are not in work, and the government’s concerns about the high number of people who are not working or seeking work.

Ellen added:

“The deeply flawed strategy would inevitably result in enormous pressures in communities already pushed to their limits after more than a decade of austerity, social security reform and personal tragedies.

“The Conservatives wanted a social security system so punitive there is no safety net enabling anyone long term out of work for any reason to have anything near a semblance of a bearable life. Meanwhile, disabled people will be facing new nightmares with all their income dependent upon a single assessment known for wrongful decisions and at the mercy of a conditionality and sanctions regime that is known to discriminate against disabled people.”

Although the WCA would not be scrapped for several years – and even then, only if the Conservatives win the next general election – concerns about the welfare of sick and disabled claimants over the next few years were heightened by other measures announced in yesterday’s budget.

Budget documents pledge to strengthen the DWP sanctions regime and ensure “that Work Coaches have the tools and training to implement sanctions as effectively as possible”.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software.

A young disabled wheelchair user is positioned inside a large treadmill. A sign above it says ‘DWP Sanctions Treadmill’. A female is flicking a long whip at him whilst a suited colleague standing alongside of her is smiling and saying: “Try not to leave any marks – just enough to motivate them!” The man is holding a paper which reads ‘Transforming Support white paper’ and on the floor is another document reading ‘Disability News Service – more sanctions to be imposed by DWP’.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by jamesbrown7ssa on 17/04/2023 at 19:07

    One conceivable personal perspective on this claim is that the modifications made to disability payments were required to ensure the system’s viability and to prevent benefit abuse by individuals who do not truly require them. Another viewpoint would be that before making any adjustments to the benefits system, the government ought to have engaged with advocates for disabled persons and those individuals themselves, and that the adjustments ought to have been made in a more sympathetic and equitable manner. But if you really interest in social benefits, I recommend you visit your local office, which you can find here:


    • Sorry James but that old DWP rhetoric that changes made to “prevent benefit abuse by individuals who do not truly require them” just won’t wash anymore. There’s plenty of research around that indicates that the percentage of people who claim fraudulently is so small that it shouldn’t impact upon the rights of those people claiming with a real need. People shouldn’t be made to feel that they are scrounging and held up as examples of societies useless eaters in this day and age.


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