Older claimants to be hit by benefit change

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Indy Politics
THE Incapacity for Work Bill, published yesterday, provoked fresh outrage from disability groups and Opposition MPs as it emerged that older claimants will be worse off and some partners will lose pounds 33 a week.

The new incapacity benefit will replace sickness benefit and invalidity benefit from April 1995. It will be taxed for new claimants. Both new and existing claimants will have to undergo a strict medical test to prove they qualify. Those exempted from the medical will include people over 58, or who are terminally ill, or suffer from certain severe degenerative illnesses.

Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, has admitted that about 70,000 people a year would lose incapacity benefit. Invalidity benefit and sickness benefit are now paid to 1.52 million people at a cost of pounds 6.4bn.

After April next year, eligible claimants will receive short-term incapacity benefit for the first 52 weeks, and long- term incapacity benefit after 52 weeks. The short-term benefit would be pounds 42.70 for the first 28 weeks, pounds 52.50 for the next 24 weeks and pounds 56.10 after 52 weeks, at April 1993 prices.

Marilyn Howard, policy worker for the Disability Alliance, said: 'It is going to be a benefit which fewer people will get, they will have to wait longer to get it and will receive a lower rate of benefit than now. People - including those with a terminal illness - will have to wait for 12 months before getting the higher rate when, as of now, they would receive it after 6 months.

'People who now receive an extra age allowance up to the age of 55 for women and 60 for men will no longer qualify after age 45. And the non-working partners of claimants without children, who now receive more than pounds 33 a week, will not get a penny.'