It’s challenge time again on the Frugal Life blog. Cast your mind back to October this year and you may recall that the Conservatives revealed plans to review incapacity benefit if they come into power. Party leaders say they are on a mission to help the poorest in society better themselves by escaping the benefits trap and gaining the skills required to get back to work. They say they are launching a campaign dubbed ‘Get Britain Working’ to provide people with job opportunities and qualifications to enable them to return to the workplace. However, the Tories also claim that of the 2.6 million people receiving incapacity benefit, at least 400,000 are incorrectly claiming. They aim to make all recipients undergo medical tests to determine if they are fit to work, weed out fraudsters and return as many people as possible to work. The Conservatives also plan to cut the benefit of recipients deemed healthy enough to work by £25 a week by only allowing them to receive unemployment benefit of £64.
But what is life actually like for people on incapacity benefit living with a disability or illness? Over the next three weeks I aim to find out more. MSN Money has challenged me to live on the equivalent money received by an incapacity benefit claimant (£89.80 a week). I also hope to gain insight into the lives of recipients by meeting and chatting to real life claimants and disability campaigners.
According to the Directgov website, if your illness or disability started before 27 Oct 2008, you may be eligible for incapacity benefit (IB). The benefit is paid at three weekly rates – £67.75 for the first 28 weeks (£86.20 if pension age), £80.15 (£89.80 if pension age) between weeks 29 and 52, and after that the payment goes up to £89.80. However, the system is changing and if your illness or disability began after 27 Oct 2008, you are eligible for the new employment and support allowance which replaces IB. Under the new system claimants undergo a work capability assessment. Those deemed able to work are put into the ‘work-related activity group’ and take part in ‘work-focused interviews’ with a personal advisor. Those unable to work because their disability or illness is too severe are placed in the ‘support group’ and not expected to enter employment. People in the work-related group receive £89.80 a week, while those in the support group receive an extra support component, bringing the payment up to £95.15 a week. During the first 13 weeks while each claim is being assessed a single person under 25 is paid up to £50.95 and a single person over 25, £64.30. Married individuals or those with children may receive more. There are also other payments which disabled people may qualify for, such as disability living allowance and attendance allowance to help pay for additional care at home and mobility.
Obviously there is much debate in the media about the benefits system and feelings run high. Some commentators argue that the system is overrun by fraudsters and people too lazy to work. But disability campaigners say most recipients are genuinely unable to enter the workplace and already endure rigorous medical means tests to determine their fitness for work. I am looking forward to finding out more.
Do you think the incapacity benefit system is abused? Are the Tories right to tackle the issue or are they unfairly targeting the disabled and sick who are medically unable to work? Leave a message and let me know your thoughts.
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