Welfare Reform Bill – the far reaching impact

21 Feb 2011

Last week the government announced further details about the Welfare Reform Bill.  On Friday we reported on some of the far reaching consequences this will have for employers. 

But clearly the biggest impact will be on the individuals who are effected by the removal of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which is to be replaced with a new benefit called the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).  Under this new scheme the government will be imposing a much stricter regime with “face to face” assessments and frequent reviews of claimant’s health. Disability charities have expressed concerns about the changes worrying that some people who genuinely need help will be left out. This is especially true of the mentally ill who may have difficulties with proving their disability in the face to face assessments.

It is anticipated that far less people will be entitled to receive a PIP than are currently in receipt of the DLA. This means that there will be more disabled people in the marketplace searching for work. The Personal Injury Team at Trethowans represents people who are disadvantaged due to either physical or psychological difficulties which can make it very hard for them to obtain work. Trethowans Personal Injury Team act for many people with moderate to very severe injuries and acts as a Deputy, managing their financial affairs. They comment; “There are some employers who are very good and have procedures which help cater for some of the problems faced by our clients and other people who have encountered similar difficulties. However employers could go much, much further. Return to employment for many is extremely important. It provides them with structure and a sense of achievement which is almost invariably very infusive to their confidence and wellbeing. The vast majority want to go back to work. I think any measures which will make it easier to obtain work is welcome. However, a careful check will need to be kept upon the actual provisions (the devil is usually in the detail) and how this might affect many very genuine persons with a disability who desperately need benefits such as DLA to provide them with a reasonable life.”

Carly Newport, a solicitor in the Employment Team agrees that employers will need to be more open to employing disabled people and be fully aware of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010. The provisions relating to positive discrimination in recruitment and promotion come into force on 6 April 2011. This imposes increased obligations upon employers to consider selecting those with protected characteristics above other applicants e.g. offering a role to a disabled applicant above an able bodied person.  The obligations in relation to pre-employment health questionnaires will also come into play as employers must be cautious when asking questions about applicant’s health.