According to an article in today’s Times, the Treasury is considering making Incapacity Benefit a means tested benefit.
Currently, it is available to people unable to work due to ill health, who have paid sufficient National Insurance credits.
An estimated 800,000 people would be affected by this change, which according to Mr Osborne could save £2 billion a year. “If more cuts are made to the welfare budget we should be able to reduce the bigger cutbacks to other Whitehall departments”
A representative of Citizens Advice said “people would lose all entitlement to incapacity benefit [and ESA] if their partner had an income of about £8,000 a year” A person who was no longer eligible for IB/ESA would possibly still be eligible for Income Support.
Two points immediately spring to mind. Firstly, this is a universal benefit, that is contribution based. If you reach your 50s, having worked all your life, and you have an accident leaving you unable to work, you might be a tad annoyed to find yourself suddenly unable to claim a benefit you had paid contributions towards all your working life.
Secondly, this seems to fly in the face of the Conservative commitment to marriage. This alteration would mean huge numbers of couples who would be financially much better off if they seperated. One partner experiencing ill-health on a long term basis, and unable to work, can already put great pressure on a relationship.
Is this merely another case of the Government targeting the most vulnerable in our society, or is it a sensible proposal that warrants serious attention?
What do you think?