Beyond the Barriers: ESA, the Work Programme and recommendations for a new system of support

Abstract

This detailed, evidenced and wide-ranging report on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the Work Programme and recommendations for a new system of support (for people with disabilities and long-term health issues in and out of work) is the most important document of its kind published to date.

Beyond the Barriers is based on the responses to five separate consultations receiving over 1,200 responses from sick and disabled people going through the ESA system (Employment and Support Allowance, previously Incapacity Benefit or IB) and the Work Programme. It provides a comprehensive challenge to the present system, plus policy guidelines for alternatives.

Entirely researched, written and supported by disabled people, the report from the Spartacus Network - endorsed and backed by the think-tank Ekklesia and other NGOs and charities - draws on the widest evidence considered and presented to date. It is a major challenge to the UK government to reconsider and recast its policies and systems, and provides a clear platform for positive reform set out by those who live at the sharp end of the issues it unpacks in considerable detail and with great expertise.

This report :

* Examines what works and what doesn't for sick and disabled people in other countries, and makes a series of recommendations based on the evidence.

* Challenges the assumption that a punishing, penalty-based system produces results and calls for a 'whole person' approach that enables everyone to be included.

* Lays out an entirely new vision of how an assessment for 'sickness benefits' might work, and offers both immediate and longer term recommendations.

* Recommends that people who meet the tough qualifying criteria for ESA are no longer forced to participate in the Work Programme. Instead, they should co-produce plans for their own support where appropriate and commission it directly.

* Offers a range of innovative solutions to enable those that can work to fulfill their potential, whatever their impairment. It recommends a holistic, 'one-stop' approach to support and that all valuable contribution should be recognised. This contribution does not always mean paid employment, as caring and volunteering are not adequately supported in our present system.

Full Contents

Executive Summary (page 3)

1. Introduction (page 7)
2, What's wrong with Employment and Support Allowance / ESA? (page 9)
3. Case studies and Consultation (page 15)
4. Implementation of Year 1 Harrington Recommendations (page 26)
5. International Evidence (page 28)
6. An Alternative ESA and the Academic Evidence for Reform (page 37)
7. Interim Recommendations (page 51)
8. The Work Programme and ESA (page 58)
9. The Future of Work (page 68)
10. Conclusion (page 82)

Appendix A: Further Work (page 84)
Appendix B: Policy Assumptions (page 89)
Appendix C: Further Analysis of Harrington Progress (page 93)
Appendix D: The Employment Gap (page 119)

* Read and download the full report and appendices (126pp, *.PDF Adobe Acrobat format, 2.5mb) here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/beyond_the_barriers_ekk.pdf