5 February 2009
The partners of sick and disabled claimants will be forced to obey orders issued by private and voluntary sector staff or have their partner’s benefits cu under new regulations to be introduced by the DWP.

Hand chained to keyboardThe shock provision is part of the Welfare Reform Bill published on 14 January and will affect partners of income support claimants and claimants of the new income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

At present, disabled claimants attending Pathways interviews are obliged to agree an action plan to help them move towards employment but do not have to actually follow it. However, as part of the continuing government clampdown on disabled claimants, new powers are to be given to pathways advisers to impose an action plan on the partners of claimants.

Partners will have the right to ask to have their action plan ‘reconsidered’ if they are unhappy with any aspect of it. However, as the reconsideration can be carried out by the same agency that drew up the plan and there is no further right of appeal to an independent tribunal, the right to have the plan reconsidered may not be of much value.

Once the action plan has been imposed, advisers will be able to specify precisely what activity must be undertaken and when by. If the claimant’s partner fails to satisfy the adviser, they will report them to the DWP who will decide whether to cut the claimant’s benefits.

Claimants will have the right to appeal against the cut in benefits, but the burden will be on them to show that it was ‘unreasonable’ to oblige their partner to carry out that specific activity.

If the claimant’s partner moves into work of 24 hours or more a week as a result of the pressure applied, the claimant will lose their entitlement to income support as incapable of work or to income-related ESA.

Partners are vital carers for many disabled claimants and these new regulations, if they become law, are likely to prove another source of misery for already embattled sick and disabled people and their families.


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