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BPS welcomes easing of burden on ESA claimants

04 October 2016

The British Psychological Society has welcomed the news that people with severe, chronic conditions will no longer face repeated tests to prove they are not fit for work.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this afternoon, work and pensions secretary Damian Green announced that individuals with severe lifelong conditions who receive the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) will no longer be subjected to regular reassessment:

‘If someone has a disease which can only get worse, making them turn up for repeated appointments to claim what they need is pointless bureaucratic nonsense.’

He added that people with ‘the most severe, lifetime conditions’ will not be tested ‘time after time’ for out-of-work benefits.

At present, anyone receiving Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which is paid to people who are unable to work through illness or disability, is required by the Department of Work and Pensions to prove his or her eligibility every six months.

Welcoming the news, Professor Peter Kinderman, President of the British Psychological Society, said:

‘This is a reform the Society has been lobbying for some time. We are pleased that it is to be implemented. We look forward to further reforms of the wider approach to disability and mental health taken by the Department for Work and Pensions, which we have been recommending for some time, and we remain closely involved in the process of advice and reform.’

Eligibility for ESA determined through the government’s Work Capability Assessment (WCA) system. In June 2015 the British Psychological Society issued a briefing paper and call to action arguing that an end-to-end redesign of the WCA is needed.

Professor Kinderman also welcomed the news that Matthew Taylor, a former head of Tony Blair’s policy unit, is to be asked to head a review of employment practices and workers’ rights:

‘Good, stable, rewarding, employment can be a major factor in supporting our psychological health and wellbeing as well, of course, as providing an income. But we also know that poor quality, unstable jobs can be a major source of stress, and unemployment can be very damaging to our psychological wellbeing. So this review of the links between employment practices and worker’s rights is very welcome and the British Psychological Society will be closely involved.’

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