The government is promising to work with companies to ensure that claimants of disability benefits do not “fall out of work”.
Unveiling plans for a review of sick pay and GP fitness-for-work notes, Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said there would be a “personal support push” to encourage people into jobs.
He also told MPs that getting into work would be treated as a “health” issue.
But Labour accused him of being “talk and no action” on helping the disabled.
Launching a consultation, Mr Green said half a million more disabled people were in work than three years ago, but the government had “got to do more”.
The document proposes a change to the work capability assessment, so there is no longer a “binary” division between people deemed able and unable to work, instead looking at the capability to hold down a job, or some work, on an individual basis.
Mr Green’s other proposals include:
- a review of statutory sick pay and GP fit notes “to support workers back into their jobs faster, and for longer”
- encouraging Jobcentre Plus work coaches to “signpost” claimants to therapy
- working with companies so that long-term health conditions do not mean employees “falling out of work”
He said his department would be working with the Department of Health to demonstrate the importance of work to people’s wellbeing.
Mr Green said: “It is about recognising that work and meaningful activity can promote good health.”
Both employment support allowance (ESA), which is paid to more than two million people, and work capability assessments were originally introduced by Labour and then expanded by the coalition government.
‘Struggling to return’
The consultation follows the announcement that people with severe conditions will no longer face reassessments for their benefits.
It will examine how people receiving ESA can be helped back into employment without having their benefits put at risk while they search for a job.
For Labour, shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “This is again kicking the issue of support for disabled people… into the long grass.
“We have got all talk and no action.”
She added: “The government has been responsible, more than anything, for the negative image of disable people.
“It is failing to understand the reality of many disabled people’s lives.”
Labour Frank Field MP, chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, said: “People with disabilities have been amongst those least well-served by job centres and welfare-to-work programmes in recent years.
“All too often, having a health condition or disability means dropping out of work and struggling to return.”
He added: “Getting this right is key not just to ensuring that disabled people get the support they need but also to building confidence that the department has their best interests at heart.”