Socialist Worker

The real impact of incapacity benefits 'reforms'

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2277

The Tories will force nearly a million people off incapacity benefits and leave 600,000 with no benefits at all, according to new research. Nearly 2.6 million claimants currently receive the benefit.

The damning report, by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University, shows the worst-hit places will be poor areas with high proportions of incapacity benefits claimants.

And contrary to the Tories’ propaganda, the report says that those forced off benefits will find it extremely hard to find work.

The last Labour government introduced some changes to incapacity benefit, such as tougher medical tests. For new claimants the benefit has been replaced by Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

The report finds that a more stringent medical test has cut the numbers being granted ESA.

Now the Tories are introducing a 12 month limit for non-means tested benefits such as incapacity benefit. After that people will only be able to access means-tested benefits—if any at all.

Many will find that the income of a partner, or any savings they have, will mean they no longer qualify for any or part of their incapacity benefits. Means testing will also stop them claiming other benefits.

The report concludes, “The vast majority will therefore be pushed out of the benefits system altogether”.

Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales will be hit hardest. Some 14.5 percent of working age adults there claim incapacity benefits. The cut in numbers will be equivalent to 7 percent of the working age population.

The reforms will push up unemployment figures as people claim Jobseeker’s Allowance instead. The right wing media say this is “evidence” that incapacity claimants are bogus.

But as the Sheffield Hallam report stresses, there is no evidence that “the health problems or disabilities that previously gave entitlement are anything other than genuine”.

It states that the government’s reforms “will impact principally on individuals and communities outside its own political heartlands”.

And it points out that “in these places, former incapacity claimants face little chance of finding work”.

The report concludes with a stark message—“The only winner is the Treasury.”

Download the full Sheffield Hallam report from

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Tue 8 Nov 2011, 18:05 GMT
Issue No. 2277
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