During March and April, there will be a number of changes and pilots affecting people with a health condition or disability who are claiming benefits.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) reforms
From 23 March, DWP will deliver three pilots to build understanding about what support works best at different points of the claimant journey. The pilot findings will also inform the development of Universal Credit policy for claimants with health conditions.
• Trialling a Claimant Commitment for ESA claimants will take place in the East Anglia district. Work Coaches will offer on-going support and agree an ESA Claimant Commitment with the claimant, focusing on individual work related requirements. Where appropriate, this will include work preparation activities that will help the individual return to, or move into work.
• More Intensive Support increases the frequency and intensity of tailored support that Work Coaches provide to claimants in the six months after completing the Work Programme. More Intensive Support will be delivered in three districts – East and South East Scotland, Kent and West Yorkshire.
• Voluntary Early Intervention offers emplo yment-related support to new ESA claimants waiting for a Work Capability Assessment. The support will take account of the claimant’s specific needs to help keep them closer to returning or moving into employment. This pilot will be delivered in four districts – Glasgow, Lanarkshire and East Dunbartonshire; Black Country; Birmingham and Solihull; and South East Wales. The pilot will be evaluated in a number of ways to find out whether this policy should be rolled out nationally.
Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) extended periods of sickness
From 30 March, new legislation will be introduced nationally affecting JSA claimants with health conditions.
This will apply to those whose condition is expected to last less than thirteen weeks and those who have had two previous periods of sickness.
Changes will mean that individuals can volunteer to remain on JSA for any further period of sickness, rather claiming ESA.
Work search activities during this period will be agreed between the claimant and the Work Coach based on the claimant’s circumstances.
Repeat claims to Employment and Support Allowance changes
New rules affecting repeat claims for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will be brought in from 30 March.
The changes mean that claimants who have been found to be capable of doing some work following a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) will not be paid the ESA assessment rate for a repeat claim, unless they have developed a new condition or an existing condition has significantly worsened.
People can currently make another claim for ESA after only six months even where there has been no change in their health condition, and be paid ESA again. The changes will remove the reference to ‘six months’ and remove entitlement to an ESA payment pending an appeal decision if the claimant has received two consecutive decisions that they ‘do not have limited capability for work’.
Where someone makes a repeat claim without a change in their condition, Decision Makers will be able to reconsider the evidence from the previous WCA when deciding whether to disallow the claim or to refer them for another WCA.
If following a mandatory reconsideration the DWP Decision Maker upholds the original decision, there is a right of appeal.
People who have had their ESA claim turned down should claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit as appropriate. This is to make sure that they get the right advice and support from Jobcentre Plus advisers or Work Coaches.
This change does not prevent someone from making another claim for ESA. It also does not prevent someone whose condition has significantly worsened or who has developed a new condition, from being entitled to ESA during the assessment phase.
DWP Touchbase March 2015
“Hope the above helps and the changes won’t affect you detrimentally?”