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Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999

Commentary

Commentary

Subsection (1) enables regulations to provide for special arrangements to be made for JSA claimants in geographically defined areas to assist them to find sustainable employment. This subsection enables Employment Zone delivery agents to undertake schemes which may not be available elsewhere in the country. Schemes may also cover the whole of Great Britain.

Subsection (2) provides examples of provisions which can be included in regulations made under this section.

One such provision (set out in subsection (2)(a)) would involve imposing further conditions upon recipients of JSA within an Employment Zone for receiving the benefit. Thus, they could be required to complete and agree an Action Plan with their personal adviser as a precondition for receiving JSA. Regulations made under this section could also suspend the normal labour market conditions, namely, actively seeking and being available for work, for those participating in a prescribed scheme. This is necessary because activities on an EZ may not be consistent with the usual JSA conditions.

Subsection (3) gives a power to apply the provisions of the Jobseekers Act with modifications.

Subsection (4) ensures that the provisions from the Act that may be applied in this way include the rules for when claimants do not meet the conditions of JSA, and the benefit is not paid.

Section 19 of the Jobseekers Act sets out the circumstances when sanctions may be applied to JSA claimants, and the benefit not paid. Examples are when someone has refused to accept a place on an employment programme, or lost that place through misconduct. Section 20A contains the parallel provision for joint-claim JSA introduced by Schedule 7 to this Act (see commentary on section 59 for details). Subsection (4)(a) provides that this sanctions regime may be modified for participants in an Employment Zone. The modified details (for example, the length of the sanction) would be set out in regulations (in the same way that the current details are set out in the JSA Regulations).

Section 20 of the Jobseekers Act (and the new section 20B for joint-claim JSA) provides for exemptions to the circumstances when JSA is not payable under section 19 (or 20A). Examples might be where a person is ill, or on jury service. It also gives the power to define when hardship payments may be made to claimants, even though JSA is not in payment. Subsection (4)(b) ensures that these provisions may also be modified for participants in Employment Zones.

Subsection (5) enables the Secretary of State to associate himself, financially or otherwise, with arrangements to assist people into sustainable employment.

In Employment Zones this may include contracting out and providing funding to Employment Zone delivery agents for the provision of the necessary services to assist people to find work.

Subsection (6) ensures that the National Assembly for Wales can make payments to those running Employment Zones in Wales without changing the devolution arrangements for training for work, jobsearch and social security, and without restricting the use of such payments to the provision of training.

It is not intended that this change should broaden the Assembly’s role in relation to jobsearch or other non-transferred matters.

Subsection (7) enables the Secretary of State to use the existing powers in section 26 of the Employment Act 1988 with respect to schemes operating under this section.

Section 26 gives the power to make an order covering details of the employment status of those participating in training schemes within an Employment Zone; and details on how income gained while on the scheme should be treated for the purposes of other relevant legislation (e.g. legislation relating to tax or National Insurance contributions).

Section 61: Incapacity for Work
Background

Entitlement to incapacity benefits is dependent on satisfying one of two tests of incapacity for work set out in legislation.

  • The ‘Own Occupation Test’ normally applies for the first 28 weeks of incapacity, for those with a recent work record. The test assesses the claimant’s ability to do their usual job, based on medical evidence from their GP.

  • The ‘All Work Test’ applies after 28 weeks of incapacity for those with a recent work record and from the start of the claim in all other cases. It is a functional test which assesses the claimant’s ability to perform a wide range of activities.

The benefits which depend on satisfying the test of incapacity for work are Incapacity Benefit (IB); Severe Disablement Allowance (which is abolished for new claimants by section 65); Income Support; the disability premiums in Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit; and, in addition to these benefits, National Insurance credits awarded on grounds of incapacity.

The consultation paper A new contract for welfare: SUPPORT FOR DISABLED PEOPLE (Cm 4103) gave a commitment to reform the All Work Test, by changing it so that, as well as establishing the level of people’s incapacity for work for benefit purposes, it provides information which will be potentially helpful to claimants and their personal advisers, in combination with a wider assessment of employability, to decide what might be done to assist a return to work.

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