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From Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance: social sorting, sickness and impairment, and social security

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This article focuses upon the introduction of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) as a replacement for the main income replacement benefit, Incapacity Benefit (IB), for sick and/or disabled people in Britain. The article argues that the process of claiming ESA, a process that is dependent upon medicalised perceptions of capability to work and which is aimed at managing the perceived economic and social costs of sick and impaired people, is a means of sorting sick and/or disabled people into subgroups of claimants. The article goes on to discuss the implications of this observation with regard to explanations of the disadvantages that sick and/or disabled people face and their implications for the income of such people. The article concludes that because the shift from IB to ESA is premised upon a number of mistaken assumptions, it represents a retrograde development for people who are sick and/or who have impairments.
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Keywords: Employment and Support Allowance; Incapacity Benefit; disability; social model; social sorting

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Applied Social Science, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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