Monday, 30 March 2015

Long Term Incapacity Allowance: Some Information

I wrote in March to Deputy Graham Truscott, Assistant Minister at Social Security:

I note the following in today's Bailiwick Express:

"Claimants who get assessed as having their faculties impaired up to a level of 30% have always been expected to have a job or look for work if they want to get Income Support, just like everyone else, but those above that threshold have not been expected to find a job."

"From today, the estimated 100 claimants whose impairment is assessed as between 30% and 35% will also have to get a job or prove they are trying to find one – and the department is aiming to increase that threshold to 50% by the end of 2016, which will affect around 350 people. "

Can you confirm to me whether or not the Minister has taken medical advice on these changes before making them? If so, will that consultation be published, or will it require a freedom of information request? If not, could you explain to me why not?

As I remember, your manifesto said:

"We need transparent government. Accountable politicians that listen to public opinion"

I am quite happy for these changes to take place if there has been an adequate consultation with medical practitioners, provided that is made public so that it is transparent. What I find it hard to countenance are changes made with keeping the public properly informed on the basis for these changes, and that they are acceptable to medical practitioners.

Some transparency would be welcome.

He informed me that he would pass on my query to Susie Pinel, the Minister, who in turn passed it on to one of her offices, and the reply, which I obtained permission to publish is below. While it cites statistics on those with 35% incapacity who have managed to find work, and while I appreciate that the percentage of incapacity is not linked to ability to work, I would have thought that the latter would require at the least some degree of consultation with the medical profession - especially if they are increasing the threshold at which work will be sort gradually to 50%. 

Academic studies show that the kind of work that someone is capable of may depend on the kind of incapacity they have and not just the bare percentage; something which needs additional medical assessment. More on those studies is available here:

I'm also very unhappy with an "operational decision" -unlike a Ministerial decision, which I think this should have been - it was not published on the Gov.Je website. I think it should have been a Ministerial decision.

I have been passed the enquiry you sent to the Deputy Minister, and am happy to respond on his behalf.

The decision made by the Minister regarding changes to job seeking requirements for those Income Support claimants with an LTIA award of 35% did not require medical advice to be sought from medical practitioners, as the change was not about assessing or challenging any LTIA claimant’s condition or percentage award. The decision made was an operational one, to extend the range of support to a wider group of Income Support claimants.

Our goal at Back to Work is to provide support to all those who are capable of work. The percentage of LTIA awarded to a claimant is compensation for a loss of faculty; it is not based on, nor an indicator of someone’s capacity or ability to work. There are already a number of people with 35% LTIA who work. In fact, the proportion of those working and on LTIA only, is three times greater than those who work and are on 35% LTIA and Income Support. We want to give full support to Income Support claimants by extending the Back to Work service to include those on 35% LTIA, and therefore honour the Council of Minister’s strategic priority of providing support to key groups (including long-term sick) to remove any barriers that prevent them fulfilling their potential in rewarding employment.

We work closely in partnership with a number of external agencies that provide services for those with health conditions. Agencies such as Jersey Employment Trust are fully supportive of this initiative as they, like us, recognise all the benefits of being in suitable work – improvement in a person’s well-being, as well as greater financial independence.

To summarise, this was an operational decision, with the reason for the press release being to keep the public fully informed and aware of the work the department does.

I hope this information is useful.

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