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Employability trajectories among new claimants of Incapacity Benefit

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The Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which replaced incapacity-related benefits in the UK in October 2008, is predicated on the assumption that it will be a temporary benefit for the majority of people who claim it. Following an initial medical assessment, new ESA claimants are allocated to one of two groups. Those judged to have less severe or temporary conditions are allocated to the Work-related Activity Group and are required to take active steps to prepare for a return to employment. Meanwhile, people considered to be severely disabled are allocated to the Support Group and are not expected to undertake work-related activities. This article examines the implications of this new distinction between those claimants who potentially could do paid work and those for whom that outcome is much less likely. Drawing on baseline and follow-up surveys, the article examines the employment status trajectories of a cohort of new Incapacity Benefit (IB) claimants in the year following their claim. It examines three questions. First, who returns to work and what factors are associated with that outcome? Second, how employable are the people who do not return to work and does their employability change during the first year of their claim? And third, among those who remained on IB after a year, what distinguishes people who classify themselves as permanently unable to work from those who do not? The article concludes with a discussion of the main findings and their implications for policy.
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Keywords: Employment and Support Allowance; employability; incapacity benefits; welfare reform

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK 2: Social Policy Research Unit, University of York, Heslington, York, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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