(2) when the Government plans to announce the level of the new employment and support allowance; and what preliminary work his Department has carried out on the level of that allowance.
We are projecting a total of 567,000 new claims for 2008-09 as a whole. From October 2008 new customers will claim Employment and Support Allowance. Prior to that date incapacity benefit and income support will be available. These benefits will also be available after October 2008 to those protected by the linking rules.
The most severely disabled people claiming Employment and Support Allowance will be placed in the Support Group and will receive a higher rate of benefit. Early estimates are that around 10 per cent. of new customers to ESA will be in the Support Group. Over time, as proportionately more people in the work-related activity group leave the benefit, the proportion will rise to around 20 per cent. of the longer term ESA caseload.
We will be laying the main ESA regulations in the coming weeks and they will include the rates of the benefit. Analysis has been undertaken and an appropriate rate for ESA will be set in order to meet our aspirations for welfare reform.