Disability Benefit ‘Under Threat’

Union officials have warned a review of the way industrial injury benefits are paid could lead to cutbacks. The UK Government is to begin a consultation into the future of the scheme, which is paid to 350,000 people across the UK.

Union officials fear they could be scrapped, and said any cutbacks would be “a major blow”.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said the review was about making sure it provided the right support.

The current state-funded scheme was introduced in 1948 and provides benefits for people disabled by an accident at work or as a result of an occupational disease.

They cover more than 70 types of illness, including deafness and repetitive strain injury, and are operated on a ‘no-fault’ basis, meaning the employee does not have to prove the negligence of the employer.

The DWP said the review was part of the UK Government’s commitment to help people move off benefits and back into work, and would look at the over-all purpose of the scheme and ask whether employers should do more to reduce risks.

But some unions are concerned it could lead to the benefits being scrapped.

Bleddyn Hancock, General Secretary of NACODS in Wales, said the National Insurance fund was showing a surplus and there was no need for any cutback.

He said people had to go through a medical examination to qualify for them.

“These are benefits that we’ve paid for, we’ve had to work for them, people have paid into national insurance,” he said.

“How would we feel if we had paid our house insurance, and a month afterwards it burns down and the insurance company says, ‘We’ve changed our minds, we’re not giving you the money now’?”

A spokesman for the DWP insisted the review was not about scrapping the benefits, but about making sure it provided the right support for people who used it.

At present, claimants do not automatically have access to support services to help them back to work, education or training.

A possible outcome of the review could be to make sure claimants have access to the services, or are offered re-training, he added.