Incapacity Benefit Changes: Tommy O'Reilly Explains

The Social Security Agency’s Chief Executive Tommy O’Reilly explains how a change to the benefit system may affect people in South Down. “Many of you will have heard that the benefit system is changing, and that these changes will affect people in Northern Ireland. “As part of the changes, between now and March 2014, those who are currently receiving Incapacity Benefits (which includes Incapacity Benefit, Income Support paid because of incapacity and Severe Disablement Allowance) will be reassessed. Incapacity Benefit, worth around £3.36million every year, is currently received by over 100,000 people in Northern Ireland. This accounts for nearly 8% of the total benefits paid here. Around 76,000 people will be affected by reassessment, excluding those who reach State Retirement Age between now and 2014. “I know that this will be a big change and a worrying time for some people. However, I can assure readers that the Social Security Agency is doing all it can to provide all our customers across Northern Ireland with full information. [caption id="attachment_23757" align="alignleft" width="267" caption="Tommy O'Reilly explains the background to the changes in the Incapacity Benefit System that will be happening soon. "][/caption] “In fact, throughout the course of reassessment the Agency will be in touch with customers at least 7 times, either by telephone or letter.  This is to make sure that they know exactly what is happening at each stage and address any questions or concerns as quickly and efficiently as we can. “So, over the next three years, Incapacity Benefit customers will receive a letter telling them that their case is to be reassessed. This will be followed by a telephone call to answer any questions and explain how the process will work. Customers do not need to contact us, we will be in touch at the time their case is to be reassessed. “Next, they will be invited to take part in a Work Capability Assessment.  This will involve customers being asked to complete a questionnaire, which is then reviewed by an independent healthcare professional.  In most cases it is expected that the customer will be asked to come for a face-to-face medical assessment. “The aim of the Work Capability Assessment is to allow us to determine a person’s ability to work or do a work related activity. Those who are able to engage in work related activity will transfer onto Employment and Support Allowance.  As a condition for being paid, they will be required to engage with the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), who will provide support and guidance to help them move towards work. “Any customer who is terminally ill, or people who could not reasonably be expected to prepare for work due to the severity of their illness or disability will be transferred to the highest rate of Employment and Support Allowance. These customers may engage with DEL for work focused support on a voluntary basis. “Those who are found to be fit for work will be contacted by the Social Security Agency and offered extensive advice about the options that are available to them at that stage and support them if they decide to apply for another benefit. “You will be asking, ‘Why the change is necessary? Incapacity Benefit works fine for me’. The simple answer is that people are better off in work – not only financially, but for their health and wellbeing, their self-esteem and the future prospects for themselves and their family.  Employment and Support Allowance provides financial support but it also expects in return that most people will engage in activities aimed at helping them towards and into the world of work.  This is in marked contrast with the Incapacity Benefits regime which does nothing to encourage people in that direction. “If you have any questions about these changes and how they will affect you go to:”]]>