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Employment and Support Allowance

Volume 493: debated on Monday 1 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what back to work support will be offered to new and existing claimants of employment and support allowance who are not part of the progression to work pathfinders. (255129)

Nationally, employment and support allowance claimants will continue to have access to back to work support through the successful Pathways to Work Programme, including a series of six mandatory work focused interviews with a personal adviser in the first eight months of the claim. From late 2010 we will extend to two years the period during which new claimants are required to engage with us through work focused interviews. This will provide a more comprehensive framework of engagement in which to address the claimant’s barriers to work. Claimants in the support group will not be required to attend any work focused interviews, but will be able to volunteer for pathways support.

Additionally, we anticipate that approximately 6 per cent. of new employment and support allowance claimants will be included in the personalised employment programme pilots which will test a single, integrated, flexible employment programme for jobseeker’s allowance claimants, new employment and support allowance claimants and parents with younger children. They will be required to engage in a framework of work focused interviews and work related activity for two years. This is subject to the successful passage of provisions in the Welfare Reform Bill.

Claimants who are migrated from incapacity benefits to employment and support allowance will be subject to different conditionality requirements, as set out in the response to questions 255137 and 255138.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much his Department expects to save from the introduction of the employment and support allowance in place of incapacity benefit in the first 12 months in which the allowance is available. (273631)

Employment and support allowance was introduced for new claims in October 2008. It is estimated that by paying employment and support allowance rates to new claimants rather than the relevant incapacity benefit rates, the Department saves £2 million in 2008-09 and spends an extra £33 million in 2009-10. These figures reflect only the changes in rates of benefit and do not take into account the effect of different eligibility criteria in the benefits.

Although starting rates of benefit are very similar for employment and support allowance and incapacity benefit, under employment and support allowance people get more money much sooner. New customers to employment and support allowance will benefit from higher rates after three months. Under incapacity benefit arrangements the highest amounts are not payable until after a year of incapacity.