Press release

Government reforms begin with fitness for work assessments

The first big phase of the Government’s radical welfare reform programme starts today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The first big phase of the Government’s radical welfare reform programme starts today, as long-term incapacity benefit claimants in Burnley and Aberdeen will be the first across the country to be reassessed for their ability to work.

The reassessment is designed to end the one-size-fits all approach to those with health conditions and disabilities which has led to 2.1 million people being trapped on benefits.

With so many people abandoned on long-term sickness benefits, Ministers are determined to reform the welfare system and help those who have been previously written off get back to work and regain their independence.

Incapacity benefit claimants in Burnley and Aberdeen will have a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which determines what a person can do, not simply what they cannot.

Ministers are clear that the most severely disabled and people who are terminally ill will not be expected to look for work and will get extra help through Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

However, those people who are reassessed and found fit for work will move onto Jobseekers Allowance and will be expected to look for work like other jobseekers. Those who could work but need extra help and support to become work ready will move onto Employment and Support Allowance and receive tailored support to get back to work.

Minister for Employment Chris Grayling said:

It’s unacceptable that so many people have been written off to a lifetime on benefits and today marks the start of the journey back to work for thousands who have been cast aside.

We know that many of the people trapped on incapacity benefits could and do want to work, but the current system doesn’t allow them to.

That’s why we’ll be reassessing everyone claiming incapacity benefits, starting in Burnley and Aberdeen today and the rest of the country from spring next year.

Everyone who can work will get the help and support they need to get a job. Those found too sick or disabled to work won’t be expected to and will continue to receive help and support to lead fulfilling lives”.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The reassessment of incapacity benefits customers will begin in the surrounding areas of Burnley and Aberdeen in October and is expected to take three years to complete.
  2. The Early Migration trial will run from October 2010 to January 2011 and will involve around 1,700 customers.  During this phase we will test our approach and gauge reactions, which will enable us to make appropriate improvements.
  3. Jobcentre Plus will write to customers when their benefit is about to be reassessed.  Jobcentre Plus will also phone the customer shortly after this to check they have received the letter, that they understand what action they need to take, and to find out if they need any extra help.  Customers do not need to contact Jobcentre Plus at this stage.
  4. In Aberdeen, migration will not apply to those customers registered at Jobcentres with provider led pathways provision.
  5. Early migration will be delivered by the Benefit Delivery Centres in Aberdeen and Burnley which cover the following Jobcentres: * Burnley - Accrington, Bacup, Blackburn, Burnley, Clitheroe, Colne, Darwen, Nelson and Rawtenstall. * Aberdeen - Aberdeen Chapel Street, Aberdeen Ebury House, Banff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead.
  6. Nationally there are currently 2.136m working age people claiming incapacity benefit. Of these there are 1.2m who have been claiming for five years or more, and 900,000 who have been claiming for a decade.
  7. The latest IB caseload figures are published here:
Published 11 October 2010