A few year back I watched a program on Channel 4 about the 1949 benefits system, if you did not see it you really missed something. So go check out Channel 4 now for details – http://www.channel4.com/programmes/benefits-britain-1949
The programme was simply about the way the benefit system in 1949 differs in its views towards and treatment of disabled workers.
What are my thoughts
In my view in 1949 the system had it spot on, that is that everyone registered as disabled was assessed to see if they could actually work, and if the government found they were capable of work they helped them find a job and the right employer who was willing to make allowances for their problems.
But, some people are too disabled to work.
Well the way I see it is we look at people like Stephen Hawking, although he may be the exception to the rule in both terms of his physical disablements and his education, I think we can learn a lot. What I think is that the majority of people who claim to be too sick to work, are not. Whilst I agree that a lot of people cannot do certain jobs due to their disability, they could do other work given the chance.
So in reality only a small minority of people are incapable of any type of work at all.
It was exactly like on the Channel 4 programme, a woman who made out she was so ill she could not do any job, yet she could walk, talk do some tasks basically she was just too lazy to work and a guy who was in wheelchair and clearly wanted to work, and given the right help they both could work.
So in my view there is only a very small minority of people claiming disability benefit that actual are incapable of work, in most case they don’t want to work, and given the recently announced benefit cap of £26k per household its not surprising as to why they don’t want to work. I mean why would anyone work if you can get £26k per year for watching Jeremy Kyle and This Morning.
Benefit Cap – Would you rather work a 42 hour week or watch Jeremy Kyle or This Morning?
If you look at the minimum wage for the UK which will be £6.31 from October 2013 for over 21s, this means that for a couple to bring home the same amount of money as this new benefit cap they would need to each be working about 42 hours week, as after Tax and National Insurance they would be left with just over £12k each per year. Now does that sound fair to you. the answer is NO.
So what can 2013 government learn from 1949 government?
So the way I see it is this, as a high percentage of disability claimants would be capable of doing some form of work, they need to be allowed to choose and be given help in finding work.
The steps to helping people should be simple.
- Assess each claimant to see if they are capable of doing work, and apart from a small minority most claimants would be able to do some kind of work.
- At this point rather than stopped the claimants benefits, ask the claimant what job they would like to do, don’t force them into a job they neither can do nor want to do.
- The claimant should remain on their benefit for a limited time, of say a year. During this time they are given a training allowance to be able to get the right training needed to be able to do the job they want to do.
- Once the claimant is finished with the training, the government then should work with employers to find a match for the claimant with a company who is willing to make allowances for their conditions and one in that the claimant will be able to remain in employment for the future.
- Let the claimant start their job, give them a couple of months in their new role and then speak to them to make sure they are happy in their new role, the employer is happy with them and at this point stop paying them disability benefits, if the job is not working out the claimant should be able to leave, still retain their disability benefits and the process from point 2 starts again.
Please note I realise that certain benefits such as DLA have an added role in life in that they are meant to remove the problems of everyday life caused by being disabled. This post is mainly targeted at the other disability benefits such as income support, ESA, etc.
So in Short
I think the government needs to be working with benefit claimants more to help them into work, rather than simply looking to stop benefits, as some claimants may not even need any training at all, they may just need help finding the right employer who understands their problems and are willing to make some allowances for them.