Capacity for work

I have been in correspondence with Carer Watch, a network of carers which has raised concerns about the tests used for Employment and Support Allowance. ESA is available for people who cannot reasonably be expected to work – the issue of reasonableness is part of the statutory definition of the benefit. Nevertheless, the legislation has introduced a series of tests, including work-focused interviews and “action plans” related to work seeking, which make work-related demands on people who cannot be expected to work.

I think there is a discrepancy between the Welfare Reform Act 2007 and the regulations. People who have limited capacity for work are supposed to be given help in moving towards employment, for example by preparatory and supportive actions. However, the regulations focus on actions that are directly related to work, rather than on actions that will increase people’s capacity where that capacity is limited. They are specified in terms of either getting people to obtain work, or of keeping people in work. Either of those options, by definition, is not reasonable for ESA claimants.

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