The Conservatives are targeting some claimant’s cash, medication and access to justice, in a tougher sanctions regime aimed at forcing more long-term unemployed people into work.  Mandatory work placements, fraud investigations as a form of coercion and a “digital tool” for tracking attendance at job interviews are also to be introduced.

Whilst most of the measures will affect a relatively small number of claimants at this stage, there is the possibility that they will become more widespread once the principle that they are acceptable has been established.

The measures form part a “Back to Work plan” to feature in the Autumn statement which Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride say will “help people stay healthy, get off benefits and move into work.”

 Amongst the new features to be introduced are:

  • Closing the universal credit (UC) claims of people who have been on an open-ended sanction for more than six months.  The DWP point out that this will include removing access to free prescriptions and legal aid.  In theory, this should not affect disabled claimants, but in reality could potentially hit disabled claimants who are appealing a decision that they are fit for work.
  • Automatically investigating claimants for fraud and error after 8 weeks on an open ended sanction, even though there are no grounds for suspicion.
  • Tracking claimants attendance at job interviews and work fairs using a “digital tool”.
  • Imposing mandatory work placements after 12 months on Restart.

Stricter sanctions and loss of prescriptions

The DWP say they will introduce “Stricter sanctions for people who should be looking for work but aren’t”.

This will include closing the UC claims of people who have been on an open-ended sanction for more than six months.

An open-ended sanction is one which applies for as long as a claimant does not meet a specified commitment. 

So, for example, if a claimant failed to attend an interview with a work coach, they would be subject to an open-ended sanction until they did attend a rearranged interview. They would then have a fixed period sanction applied.

At the moment claimants subject to an open-ended sanction have a deduction applied to their standard allowance until they comply.  This can last indefinitely.

Under the new rules their claim would end after six months if they are not receiving additional child, housing or disability UC payments.  The DWP say this will also have the effect of “ending their access to additional benefits such as free prescriptions and legal aid.”

In theory, this measure will not apply to disabled claimants. 

However, because the mandatory reconsideration and appeal process generally take longer than six months, a claimant who has wrongly been found capable of work could find themselves on an open-ended sanction for failing to do something that, for example, a mental health condition prevents them doing. 

They may then find their UC claim and access to free prescriptions stopped before they have an opportunity to have the decision they are fit for work overturned.

Fraud investigations for disabled claimants

If a claimant is on an open-ended sanction for more than 8 weeks and they are in receipt of additional UC payments for childcare, housing or disability they will automatically be investigated for fraud and incorrect payments through the Targeted Case Review system.

This will be the case even though there are no grounds for suspecting any wrongful payment has been made.

Claimant tracking

The DWP say they are introducing a new digital tool that will allow work coaches to “track a claimant’s attendance at DWP organised job interviews or job fairs”. 

The DWP have given no indication of how this tool will work, but say that it will “ensure that claimants who do not attend mandatory appointments without a good reason, are sanctioned.”

Restart mandatory work placements

The Restart scheme, which currently provides coaching and training to claimants who have been on UC for nine months is to be toughened up.

In future, claimants can be placed on the Restart scheme after six months.

 In addition there will be a review after 12 months on Restart at which  “a work coach will decide what further work search conditions or employment pathways would best support a claimant into work.”

 The conditions can include a mandatory work-placement.

Claimants who refuse to accept the conditions laid down by the work coach will have their UC claim closed.

NHS Talking Therapies

An additional 384,000 people will be eligible for free courses of mental health treatment, such as CBT, for treatment of mild and moderate mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders.”

 Individual Placement and Support

An additional 100,000 people with severe mental illness will be eligible for Individual Placement and Support (IPS).  The DWP say that IPS employment specialists help claimants to find and keep employment.

Universal Support in England and Wales

100,000 claimants per year, including disabled and vulnerable claimants, will receive up to 12 months “place and train” support from a dedicated keyworker who will help them find and keep a job.  Up to £4,000 will also be available to help each claimant manage health conditions or to help employers make necessary adjustments.

WorkWell

The DWP say WorkWell will help support people at risk of falling into long-term unemployment due to sickness or disability, through integrated work and health support.  The scheme will begin in 15 pilot areas.

Fit note reform

The government is to “explore reforms of the fit note process to provide individuals whose health affects their ability to work with easy and rapid access to specialised work and health support.”

 The concern is that the DWP may be working towards reducing the role of GPs in providing fit notes, replacing them instead with DWP staff.  This is hinted at in the Back to Work Plan, which says:

“Primary care (GP surgeries) will continue to play an important role in supporting working age people where their health presents a barrier to work. But there is often pressure on the time and expertise needed to hold the work and health conversation effectively and direct people to the right support, which is why we are exploring reforms.”

A blueprint for the future

If the DWP is successful in imposing these ‘reforms’ on a relatively small group of claimants without opposition, there is a real possibility they may then be introduced more widely.

It is hard to see how anyone could argue that effectively depriving claimants of access to prescribed medication, cutting off their access to legal aid or deliberately using fraud investigations as a method of coercion are legitimate functions of a social security system intended to act as a safety net.

But, it seems, that is exactly what is being introduce.

You can read more about the Back to Work Plan here.

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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    James · 3 months ago
    I thought that Labour had already brought in "fit notes" in 2010. Kind of like trying to get blood out of a stone it seems to me really. You have a person who does particular kinds of work he/she can no longer do because they are disabled/unwell forced to do some other kind of temporary work until they are able-bodied/well-enough to go back to their usual work. In practice this turns out to be way more difficult to implement than it sounds because it depends on plenty of non-skilled temporary vacancies to shoehorn people into and employers willing to take them on. No doubt there will be some kind of test/assessment to determine "fitness" which, more than likely, anybody with a pulse will pass with flying colours. A good thing then that the Tories are finished but I wouldn't put it past Labour to try something similar or worse if it gets a boost for them in the polls and is popular with the public.  
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    Angela · 6 months ago
    As if disabled people haven't alreadly been enduring this for years and years, with mandatory reconsideration, backlogs, having the little support ripped away! 
    The changes from DLA to PIP, income support, welfare reform of 2013, now managed migration to Universal Coffin, I mean Credit for those of us still on the old legacy system, it's tough enough to find suitable job work, let alone if one manages a fluctuations in their health! Plus I dont understand why they believe sanctions will incentivise, just more draconian measures, made to marginalise and demonise! I despair, I really do 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Inglis 25 · 6 months ago
    I am disgusted at this Governments complete disregard for those in need of help.
    To sanction people who are already struggling to survive is extremely cruel and dangerous.
    We are all aware That those in power claim numerous expenses and don’t always have to turn up for work
    .Yet those same people who are living in luxury don’t bat an eye at imposing sanctions on the already poor. They don’t care about the stress those sanctions impose on people. 
    Starving people into working is impossible. Many have sadly opted to commit suicide because they can’t see another way out from their miserable existence.
    The sad facts are that this Government has zero empathy for the people they are punishing. They, despite being responsible for to many deaths continue with their cruel sanctions. Shame on all of them.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Haida · 6 months ago
    Combining work and healthcare is very dangerous. The idea of sanctions for those who 'don't engage' is coercive, people being left without choice but to engage in something that's not in their best interests in order to live is comparable to Modern Slavery. Furthermore, people with health issues should have the dignity of healthcare that is confidential and ethical. "Over 180,000 more people will be helped through the Universal Support programme and nearly 500,000 people will be offered treatment for mental health conditions and employment support." (Autumn statement) "If, after 18 months of intensive support, jobseekers have not found a job, we’ll roll out a programme requiring them to take part in mandatory work placements to increase their skills and improve their employability. And if they choose not to engage with the work search process for six months, we will close their case and stop their benefits." These new proposals open the door to so much abuse from staff involved - invalidation, coercion, threats, also a potential loss of privacy depending on evidence required for the proposed Health element. Abuse is prevalent as healthcare and welfare are already so interdependent. Support for mental health conditions without any association or implication of work is a more ethical way of supporting people. The money should be there for those with conditions/disabilities to choose for themselves what treatment to engage in, privately and without it having any impact on welfare status. The whole concept of conditional welfare is wrong - the more conditions, the less security. Potentially leaving so many at risk of destitution and exploitation would be an unnecessary as well as reckless move.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Rozzt · 6 months ago
    I just don't want to do any of this anymore.
    I genuinely don't want to live any longer with my condition, regardless of the generosity (or not) of the welfare system.
    I want the Canadian MAID system brought to the UK.
    Give the money my life would cost to someone in the comments who wants to fight on.
    At somepoint very soon, I'm gonna have to find my own path to a permanent restful peace.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      The Dog Mother · 6 months ago
      @Inglis 25 Inglis 25 it's truly how I feel. Even though I'm down and sad and worried and feel wretched ,I can't bear to see others like that. I know what it does to me, so I know their dispear.I hate that we are in this situation created by those who neither care nor want to understand how down trodden ,fed up, and hurt their unjustified contempt for us makes us feel.
      Surely there has to be better times for us. I hope so. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Inglis 25 · 6 months ago
      @The Dog Mother I love your reply x
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Inglis 25 · 6 months ago
      @Rozzt Dear Rozzt. Please contact the Samaritans asap! Living with ill health is a constant struggle, we don’t need the constant uncertainty and stress that this cruel Government imposes on us. Please don’t hurt yourself further because despite your health issues with the right support life can be joyous again. Sending Love to you I hope you will reach out for the support you need.x 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      The Dog Mother · 6 months ago
      @Rozzt Its exceptionally hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel. But rem this is all not set in stone yet. Hold fast. Do not give in. I feel like checking out every day, and that's not just words, then I look at my elderly parents and know how heartbroken they'd be. I cuddle my doggo and think,"How could I leave you "! They might sound like stupid reasons to carry on to some but I feel they are valid to me. 
      We have to hold one another up.. we must fight on in any small way we can. We need to live to spite them. I can't even tell anybody how hard a slog it is each day to cope mentally.  They see my physical problems and know my MH is bad, but how can I say to my beloved parents 'I don't wanna be here anymore". We cannot allow a benefit system to force us into anything permanent  something that cannot be reversed. 
      Look for a small thing each day you love. No matter if it's watching the birds from your window and know we are all in this storm together.we will ride it out together. Love and best wishes to you. Keep going. X
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      James · 6 months ago
      @Rozzt Me too !
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Phili R · 6 months ago
    Are the Tories so stupid that they think that the disabled are choosing not to work? They can't get work because employers don't want to employ them, as they think that they will always be taking sick leave, or it will cost too much for them to make reasonable adjustments..
    Having to subsist on the meagre benefits that you have a right to, as you have paid NI for them, actually causes many people's health and disabilities to worsen.
    What do you call politicians who actively seek to destroy your life?
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Moi · 6 months ago
    they keep moving the goal posts to get their own way, i just don’t think they give a shit at all about vulnerable people and only care about saving money to buy bullets bombs and nuclear weapons, god help us from them, the tories are an environmental disaster.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Survivor. · 6 months ago
    I along with most on this forum are seen as a burden by this government and make no mistake, a significant minority of the country at large have little sympathy for those affected by today's announcements, mostly due to the fact that they have their health; for the moment.
    I'll be voting for a party that at least doesn't hate a portion of it's population and I'll be telling the people I know that are likely to struggle of resources such as B&W. Spite the government, fight for yourself when you can and ask for help on here and elsewhere when you cannot. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Fred · 6 months ago
    The tories are the most despicable inhuman out of touch government I have ever known in my life
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Jackie · 6 months ago
    The Tories are at it again  trying to put people against each other  they are despicable and inhuman they’re all counting their big salaries whilst disabled and non working for whatever reason people suffer the humiliation of having their lives ruined by this government  shame they don’t go after the people they made extremely rich in Covid it cost billions but yet they still pick on the most vulnerable people in society shame on them 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Doc · 6 months ago
    Ten years ago when I first had a mental breakdown, I was terrified of this system as I’d watched from afar at how cruel it was. I persevered with the help of B&W. Today, with physical health issues that’ll likely see me on benefits for life, I look at these plans and I just think… how do they justify this? How? How do they dare speak these things out loud?

    If they’re getting rid of the “substantial risk” rule, that’s deliberately getting rid of a protection that saves lives. That means the DWP are saying “work or die, no money from us”. 

    Why is there not more outrage about this? I’m absolutely livid.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Al · 6 months ago
    These people are nazis! We need to rise up to this evil agenda before there is no benefit system. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Jeanette · 6 months ago
    Does anyone know what the changes are to the work capability statement, jeremy hunt has just announced. It looks like they are taking out 4 categories that will affect my being eligible for help and the substantial risk clause. I absolutely terrified i wont be able to get the support i need now. How can they say we are just sitting at home on benefits, they have no idea how severe mental health illness effects people, it is not a life choice to be like this. I myself cannot  work from home because of my mental health problems.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Sandra Bowes-Rennox · 6 months ago
    There going to court..Under the Humans Right Act which this country signed up to the people have a right Justice and representative to defend us as well as medicine be it free or otherwise. This is tantamount to blackmail and the strain on the NHS when people's lives are at risk.
    This is a clear case of bullying and deciding who lives and who died.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Kerry · 6 months ago
    Does anyone know if the 3 descriptors got scrapped or modified for the LCWRA or ESA SG. Which was being reviewed ?
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    mm · 6 months ago
    So if you are on esa contribution support and return to work after 12 weeks, you lose the right to benefits for two years if you have a partner who earns more than the means-tested benefit cut-off. 

    What happens next to poor houses being returned?
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Stephen · 6 months ago
    After squandering billions of pounds throughout the Covid 19 debacle, awarding their donors huge sums in fraudulent contracts, as well as the litany of abject cruelty aimed at the disabled for over 12 years, Tories have managed to plumb the depths of depravity with their new attacks on the most vulnerable members of society. Evil is too mild a word to describe the Conservative party. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Kri · 6 months ago
    At the very minimum the withdrawal of Free Prescriptions is bound to fail under a Human Rights challenge. This can threaten the lives of not just vulnerable people alone. The Human Right of "The Right to Life" is ABSOLUTE & all laws & policy that threatens it is unlawful. What is Benefits & Work's opinion please?
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      sue · 6 months ago
      @Kri don't forget they're threatening to leave the UNCHR because of the rwanda plan for small boats.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Andie · 6 months ago
      @Kri They are very sneaky scummy B’s the Tory party it would cost hundreds of thousands as I’m training to become a solicitor, in legal costs to raise a human rights action for denying free medication, albeit his can a disabled person fund such a litigation when they’re also denied legal aid? Unless they have thousands (and if they did would not qualify for these benefits like ESA) they cannot go to court under the ECHR. Sunak knows exactly what he’s doing by cutting legal aid and unless a solicitor or advocate will petition the case for free it’s a lose, lose situation for the claimant. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Mark · 6 months ago
    You look at all these MPs they all come from priviliged backgrounds, had private education, want to University, a top job then Westminster, I don't think any of them has been forced into a dead end job in their lives.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Mark · 6 months ago
    Typical Tories reward the rich with tax cuts while punishing the poor and sick for being poor and sick. How do they sleep at night, they completely lack any empathy.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Bob · 6 months ago
      @Mark Yes I agree they all live on another planet let them swap places with real people and see how the real world live.  The WCA system has been needing fixing for years.  Let's talk about wasting money.   They spent a fortune on a emergency mobile weather alert app that we didn't need.  And all the money they use giving themselves pay rises and travel expenses.  Let's just make the sick and disabled scale goats.   Get real
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