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30 April 2009
The start of the  forced ‘migration’ of incapacity benefit claimants to employment and support allowance appears to have been delayed, leading to the possibility that incapacity claimants will face a less harsh test.

ESA medicalThe DWP’s frequently announced intention was to begin moving claimants aged under 25 from incapacity benefit to ESA in 2009, with all other claimants moving from 2010 to 2013.

However, in a written parliamentary answer Jonathan Shaw, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Disabled People, made no mention of the 2009 start date.

Instead, he informed Liberal Democrat MP John Barrett that:

“The White Paper, ‘Raising expectations and increasing support’ stated that existing incapacity benefits recipients will be migrated to employment and support allowance from 2010. This will involve having the work capability assessment rather than the personal capability assessment which is a more accurate and up to date assessment of limited capability for work than its predecessor.”

Mr Shaw went on to say that:

“We are monitoring the early stages of implementation of employment and support allowance and this will inform our estimates of the likely impact of the work capability assessment on existing incapacity benefits recipients.”

In fact, the DWP have to place an annual independent report before parliament on how the tough new work capability assessment is affecting claimants.  If migration does not begin until 2010, the first such report will already have been published.

If, as rumour has it, a great deal fewer claimants are being placed in the support group than MPs were led to believe would be the case, there may be strong pressure on the DWP to make the test for entry to the support group less difficult to pass.

In addition, any independent report may expose some of the unfair ways in which the DWP is interpreting the law in order to ensure that more people are forced onto JSA instead of being able to claim ESA.  This may lead to further pressure for reform of the work capability assessment before it is unleashed on current incapacity claimants.  

Whatever happens in the future, the delay in migration can only be good news for those who are going to be forced to undertake the journey from incapacity to ESA or JSA.

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