27 March 2003
The first victims of the new incapacity benefit pilots, designed to get three quarters of all new IB claimants back into work, have been announced. The first to be subject to the new regime, due to begin in November, will be new claimants in Bridgend in Wales, Renfrewshire in Scotland and Derbyshire in England.
In a bizarre borrowing from the Middle East peace process the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Andrew Smith, announcing the pilot areas declared that
"We want to give people a clear road map towards work and more support to get there as quickly as possible."
The DWP claims it is still considering responses to the Green Paper proposing the pilot and has not yet decided what parts it will take forward and test in the pathfinder areas. Amongst proposed changes to 'support people on the road to work' are a series of five or more compulsory work-focused interviews for new claimants, plus 'voluntary psychological treatment' provided jointly by the NHS and Jobcentre Plus. In addition, it is proposed that claimants who appeal against the decision that they are capable of work will lose the right to claim income support and will be forced to sign on and seek work instead. (You can read more about the proposed changes in our previous article: Take up thy bed and work: minister aims to cut incapacity claims by three quarters)
Announcements about a further three pilot areas are expected shortly.