Does the Health and Disability White Paper deliver for disabled people?
You might have missed it.
Not yesterday’s main event– it would have been hard not to hear about the Government’s budget. (But if you do want to know what we think Chancellor’s measures, you can check out our take here. Spoilers: We don’t think he did enough.)
No, the Red Book wasn’t the only thing published as soon as the Chancellor sat down. Finally, we got to read the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’ Health and Disability White Paper.
It’s been a long time coming. The Government published the Health and Disability Green Paper in July 2021. Back then, we helped the DWP to organise focus groups with disabled people we support. We used what disabled jobseekers told us to write our response to the Green Paper.
Has it been worth the wait?
Given that yesterday’s budget was all about getting people ‘back to work’, you might expect the White Paper to set out how the Government would help disabled people who want to work to overcome the barriers to employment they face.
Some of the measures were positive. Overall, though, the White Paper doesn’t do enough to give disabled jobseekers the specialist support they need. And there are too many unanswered questions about the Government’s plans to reform benefits.
Here’s a run through of the announcements and what they could mean for disabled people.
The good news
Additional support for disabled people
Disabled people need to be able to access specialist support to help them overcome the barriers to employment they face.
It could be a good thing that disabled people on Universal Credit and the Employment Support Allowance will now be entitled to additional support from Work Coaches for an initial three-year period.
But our research shows that half of jobseekers with complex disabilities don’t feel supported by their Work Coach.
For this proposal to be effective, Work Coaches will need to be given specific training in the barriers faced by disabled people.
We hope that the DWP takes this opportunity to work with disabled people to co-produce training for Work Coaches and Disability Employment Advisors.
Specialist benefits assessors
People with complex disabilities often tell us that they are assessed by people who don’t understand their condition or impairment. Unsurprisingly, this makes the process more distressing for applicants, and leads to inaccurate and unfair decisions.
Like other charities, we called in our response in the Green Paper for assessors to have access to expertise on an applicant’s condition or impairment before an assessment.
We’re pleased that the Government have listened to us, committing to test the introduction of specialist assessors for particular conditions. Done well, it could make the assessment fairer for disabled people. But we need to know how this will work in cases where people have multiple conditions or impairments, or rare conditions that it would not feasible for assessors to specialise in.
The DWP have said they will work with disabled people and disability charities while putting this proposal into practice. That’s good news – we look forward to making this proposal work for people with complex disabilities.
The news that could be good or bad
Introducing a new health element to Universal Credit
Starting in 2026/27, the Government will introduce a new ‘health element’ of Universal Credit to replace the Limited Capability for Work and Work-Related Activity (LCWRA). This will be paid at the same rate, and will be available to anyone receiving Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Crucially, unlike under the current system, disabled people in employment will now be able to claim this new benefit. That means more disabled people will be eligible for this form of financial support.
It also means disabled people don’t have to worry about losing benefits if they start work – something which currently stops some disabled people from accepting a new job.
All of this is positive.
What’s the bad news? Some people are in the LCWRA group, but don’t claim PIP. This means that they will not be eligible for the new health element. The Institute for Fiscal Studies say that as many as 1 million people could lose out as a result.
The Government say that, because of financial ‘transitional protections’, no one currently in the Limited Capability for Work and Work Related Activity group will be worse off. But that doesn’t mean they won’t lose out in the long run. In fact, the White Paper says that this is exactly what will happen.
Replacing the Work Capability Assessment
With the introduction of the new health element, the Work Capability Assessment will be replaced with a new personalised health conditionality approach. This means that people in the limited capability for work and work-related activity group won’t be automatically exempt from looking for work. In contrast, it would also mean those with limited capability for work won’t be automatically be required to look for work.
There’s not much detail on this new ‘health conditionality’ approach. But the suggestions that more people might be required to look for work is worrying.
It’s vital that a new personalised health conditionality approach doesn’t lead to more people being subject to conditionality.
We’re also concerned by the fact that the new ‘health element’ of Universal Credit will be dependent on someone’s entitlement to PIP. But the PIP assessment is just as flawed as the Work Capability Assessment.
The Government needs to make sure that this new system doesn’t leave disabled people worried that they will lose all their financial support if their PIP assessment doesn’t go their way.
We wish that this blog could shed more light on what the proposals will mean for disabled people when the Work Capability Assessment is replaced in 2026/27. But there are simply too many unanswered questions about the proposal.
All we really do know is that the White Paper isn’t doing enough to help disabled people right now.
We await more details on the proposals announced and will continue to call for the right support at the right time for disabled people looking for work.