Part of the Chancellor’s Spring Budget on Wednesday was to axe the work capability assessment (WCA).
This now only leaves those who are on the personal independence payment (PIP) check remaining for assessing if people are eligible for sickness benefit, as Jeremy Hunt claims this will bring people back to the workplace.
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Karen Buck raised concerns in the House of Commons that “live will be made harder” as vital support could disappear.
Buck said, “No-one will mourn the passing of the work capability assessment, and Labour has been calling for reform of that for a long time.
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“It needed to change because people’s lives do not fit neatly into a binary system of work or no work, but disabled people and those with serious health issues want and deserve support and reassurance in work and out of it.
“What people fear now understandably under the guise of reform is that their lives will be made harder and vital financial support may disappear.”
She added, “The PIP assessment is designed for a totally different purpose to the work capability assessment.
“How will he reconcile those completely different systems?”
Work and Pensions Minister Tom Pursglove told MPs, “It is important to recognise that, for those individuals who are not currently in receipt of PIP, what we will do is we will look very carefully at whether those individuals will make the PIP criteria and act accordingly.”
Tom Waters, senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said, “Around one million people may be required to work and around 600,000 could be in line for a roughly £350-per-month loss of income, though in the short run all of them will be protected by transition measures.
“Many of them are likely to apply for PIP to keep that current entitlement, but if their condition doesn’t create higher living costs then many of them won’t be eligible.
“The Government faces a core trade-off.
“It can accept many low-income losers or they can widen the PIP criteria and get more high income, less severely disabled within.
“It has the risk of runaway spending on one hand or having sick low-income people losing out on the other.”
James Taylor, director of strategy at disability equality charity Scope said, “With hundreds of thousands of disabled people potentially at risk of losing benefits from these proposals, this feels more like a purpose-built gaping chasm than a crack in the system.
“The WCA and the PIP assessment are designed to do different things. Whilst it is positive the WCA is being abolished, the level of financial support it can unlock for disabled people does not exist in PIP.
“It’s therefore vital that protections are put in place to make sure this large group of people who get some employment support but not PIP do not lose out.”