Work and Pensions Committee Press Notice

Press notice      No. 1 of Session 2005-06

21 July 2005

'Select Committee to inquire into reform of incapacity benefits and Pathways to Work'

The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee today announced an inquiry "to examine the Government's strategy to help more people who are not in work due to ill-health or disability move into employment through a reformed system of incapacity benefits and the lessons learned from the Pathways to Work pilot schemes."

Disabled people currently have an employment rate of just over 50% and there are 2.8 million people of working age claiming incapacity benefits.  DWP has a PSA target to increase the employment rate of people with disabilities and the Government has a long-term aspiration to increase the overall employment rate from 75% to 80% of the working-age population. Consequently helping more disabled people move into employment, while also supporting those who are unable to work, has a central role in the Government's welfare to work strategy.

The Committee seeks written contributions on this issue from interested organisations and individuals. Oral hearings will take place in the autumn. The deadline for written evidence is 3 October 2005, although the Committee will accept supplementary memoranda once the Government's Green Paper on the reform of incapacity benefits is published. Written submissions should be submitted in accordance with the guidelines.

Suggested key areas include:

Reforms to incapacity benefits:

  • What lessons can be learned from the Pathways to Work pilots in shaping the direction of the reform of incapacity benefits?

  • What are the implications of DWP's proposals for the new structure of incapacity benefits? Do they address the complications inherent in the existing incapacity benefits system? Is a dual benefit the right approach? Could it be improved ?

  • Will the reforms help to improve work incentives for sick and disabled people?

  • Is it possible to distinguish between those who are able to return to work and those who cannot?

  • What are the implications of the reforms on levels of fraud and error?

  • Will the reforms address the main areas of concern with the current system?

  The future rollout of Pathways to Work:

  • How successful have the Pathways to Work pilots been? Does the current design need adapting for national rollout?

  • What are the implications of a rollout of Pathways on a new system of incapacity benefits?

The experience of sick and disabled people:

  • Including: the experience of those who have taken part in different aspects of the Pathways to Work pilots; barriers in accessing support offered through Pathways; awareness of the support available; and views on further reform.

  • Are people with different disabilities and health conditions, in both pilot and non-pilot areas, given appropriate support by Jobcentre Plus? Is there a tendency to help those perceived as closer to the labour market?

  • How will the reforms help those who are not able, or not yet ready, to work?

Support for sick and disabled people to move back into work:

  • Can the reformed systems support those with variable and manageable medical conditions, or those who are able to work part-time? Are those with mental health difficulties adequately supported?

  • Does the Condition Management Programme provide the right level of support?

Involvement of healthcare professionals:

  • Has Pathways successfully worked with healthcare professionals, including GPs, particularly in rehabilitation initiatives such as the Condition Management Programme? How can healthcare professionals be further engaged in the reform of the incapacity benefits system?

Jobcentre Plus resources:

  • Is Jobcentre Plus sufficiently resourced to deliver the Pathways pilots, both in terms of staffing and finances? Are they equipped to deal with a reform programme for Incapacity Benefit?

  • What has been the effect of the DWP efficiencies agenda?

Existing employment initiatives:

  • What has been the effect of the Pathways pilots on existing programmes and support, such as the New Deal for Disabled People and Work-Based Learning for Adults?

  • How do personal advisers work in collaboration with other Jobcentre Plus staff such as Disability Employment Advisers and with Job Brokers?

The role of the private and voluntary sectors:

  • Have the private and voluntary sectors been successfully involved in the Pathways pilots? How can they be further involved in the reform of incapacity benefits?

Local labour markets:

  • What type of jobs are participants of Pathways moving into? Are they receiving appropriate in-work support to enhance job retention?

  • Are local labour markets able to provide the jobs needed?

  • What is the experience of employers?

Submissions may address as many, or as few, of these issues as respondents wish.