As hon. Members are aware, the Welfare Reform Act 2007 and the Welfare Reform Act (Northern Ireland) 2007 contain provision for a key element of the Government’s Welfare Reform proposals including the introduction of employment and support allowance.
I am pleased to confirm that employment and support allowance has successfully gone live this morning. This means that any new customer wishing to make a claim on the grounds of ill health or disability is able to contact Jobcentre Plus to make a claim for ESA and that the new business and IT systems are in place to support this.
Today is the start of customers’ journey on ESA which includes a clear framework of rights and responsibilities delivered using an enhanced regime of work-focused interviews, with a firmer conditionality regime.
To support ESA we have introduced an end-to-end ESA customer service supported by an initial business operating model and supporting IT. All ESA claims will be taken in one of the six contact centres that will handle ESA customers’ claims. The full integrated IT system will be tested through the trailblazer in Tees Valley, in its benefit delivery centre and associated jobcentres. The rest of the benefit delivery centre and jobcentre network will operate an interim process to provide an opportunity for DWP to learn from initial deployment to ensure a fully optimised system rolls out nationally.