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People with disabilities could be given “more support” to work from home, under plans announced by the government.
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride has outlined a number of benefit reforms to help people find work and reduce government spending.
Any changes to benefit assessments will not affect those at the end of their life or with severe learning disabilities, he told Parliament.
Charities say the changes could force people to work when they are not well.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a consultation on proposed changes to the work capability assessment – the test aimed at establishing how a disability or illness limits a claimant’s ability to work.
The proposals include:
Updating the categories associated with mobility and social interaction
Reflecting flexible and home working – and minimising the risk of these issues causing problems for workers
Providing “tailored support” for those found capable of work preparation activity in light of the proposed changes
The consultation is expected to run for eight weeks, and the Government hopes the reforms will come into force by 2025 – which will be after the next general election.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Stride said there had been a huge shift in the world of work over the last few years that has “opened up opportunities” for disabled people and those with health conditions.
He continued: “The work capability assessment doesn’t reflect how someone with a disability or health condition might be able to work from home, yet we know many disabled people do just that.
“Our plans include taking account of the fact that people with mobility problems or who suffer anxiety within the workplace have better access to employment opportunities from the rise in flexible and home working.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said “work transforms lives” and the proposed changes would ensure “no one is held back from reaching their full potential through work”.
However, disability charities have warned the new plans could be “catastrophic”.
James Taylor, executive director of strategy at disability equality charity Scope, said if people are forced to look for work when they are unwell this could make them even “more ill”.
“If they don’t meet strict conditions, they’ll have their benefits stopped. In the grips of a cost-of-living crisis this could be catastrophic,” he added.
Jeremy Hunt announced plans to completely scrap work capability assessments when he announced his first spring Budget.
The DWP says these latest proposals are “designed to help pave the way towards the landscape of support and work incentives that will be offered” when the assessments are eventually scrapped.
Figures have shown around 2.5 million Britons are missing from the jobs market because of medical conditions.
The government’s has pledged £2 billion worth of investment to help those with long-term illnesses and disabilities get into work.