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28 March 2003

The Social Security Advisory Committee is examining a bid by the Department for Work and Pensions to remove a legal safety net designed to protect vulnerable people. The DWP is seeking to remove regulation 27(b) less than 5 months after the Court of Appeal ruled that they must put it back in place. (See previous stories: Incapacity test changed - for the better! and Incapacity for work safety net slashed again).

Regulation 27(b) says that people with a physical or mental health condition which means that there is a substantial risk to their health, or someone else's, if they are found fit for work should not be found capable of work. The regulation was removed from the statute book in 1997 after the Secretary of State deliberately misled the Social Security Advisory Committee by claiming the change would make no difference to claimants. After a lengthy court battle the regulation was finally restored on 8th November 2002. Now, however, the DWP is to strike the regulation out again by changes in the law.

Many new and repeat claimants with mental health conditions such as agoraphobia and physical conditions such as ME/CFS or heart problems are likely to be affected by the changes. You can read what welfare rights workers are saying about the changes on the Rightsnet site and also download a copy of the objections to the changes produced by Hastings Advice and Representation Centre .

Whilst SSAC can recommend that the DWP do not go ahead with the proposed changes, the government is free to ignore their recommendation, as they have done in the past. If you wish to submit evidence to SSAC, the deadline for doing so is 7th April 2003. Their email address is: ssac@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

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