What effect do sanctions & conditionality have on disabled people?

There are times that policy runs ahead of academic knowledge. Indeed, this is often the case, for policies must first be introduced before social scientists can study them – and if policymakers were restricted to policies that had been tried and tested, then policy innovation would be impossible. Yet such innovation can come with considerable risks, as new policies can be introduced and widely imitated, only for social scientists – after some delay – to show that such policies are difficult to implement, can fail to achieve some of their aims, and may even have unforeseen and harmful consequences.

In a new special issue of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, we focus on one area where this might be happening: sanctions & conditionality for sick and disabled social security claimants. Continue reading

New estimates for disability benefit spending from the OBR

The Office of Budget Responsibility – the official body responsible for ‘independent and authoritative analysis of the UK’s public finances’ – today published a new ‘welfare trends report’. This may not sound like the kind of news to get the pulse racing (even for people like me), but beneath the typically dry language there’s a couple of interesting updates about disability and incapacity benefits, as well as some slightly dubious international comparisons… Continue reading

Work Capability Assessment is a toxic failure – here’s a better way

By Ben Baumberg, University of Kent; Clare Bambra, Durham University; Jon Warren, Durham University, and Kayleigh Garthwaite, Durham University

Many words can be used to describe failing policies – whether it’s a “toxic brand” or the “blunders of government”. Whatever words we use, though, there can be few policies that are more toxic than the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) – the test that determines whether disabled people can claim Employment and Support Allowance.

The WCA has seemingly been criticised by everyone: major charities, doctors and disabled people themselves. The perceptions of it are such that the private sector company carrying out the tests, Atos, reportedly handed money back to the government to escape their contract early because of the damage it was causing their brand and the “very toxic” environment for their staff.

But why is the WCA failing so badly – and what can do we to fix it? As we argue in a new Demos report, we cannot simply put the blame at the door of Atos. Continue reading