A leading think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), has suggested that disabled people currently claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) could benefit from investing in private insurance instead.
The group’s statement, which has been reported on by The Independent, raises its concerns that less than half of disabled people living in the UK are currently employed. The IEA speculates that one contributing factor helping to explain this statistic is that disabled people are choosing not to apply for jobs because it can be difficult and complicated to reapply for ESA once the initial payments have been stopped.
According to the think tank, it may be in the interest of many disabled people to instead ‘opt out’ of their ESA contribution and sign up to private disability insurance; this move, the IEA believes, would then allow insurers to fund services which could help those who are able to move into employment.
Speaking about the organisation’s proposals, Kristian Niemietz (the IEA’s head of health and welfare) conceded that it is ‘still unclear’ how the think tank’s ideas for reducing levels of disabled unemployment could be achieved. However, Niemietz stated that ‘involving independent insurers would facilitate more policy experimentation to identify the best way of getting the disabled back into work, while freeing up resources to provide intensive support for those most in need’.
Niemietz and his IEA colleagues also put forward their belief that the current disability benefit system should be ‘decentralised’, with programmes and funding administered more by local authorities than central government.
Whether or not the IEA’s proposals come to fruition, it should always be remembered that benefits such as the Employment and Support Allowance are often a vital lifeline to people with reduced mobility, without which many would be unable to invest in the support and equipment they need such as new fold-up mobility scooters and accessible bathrooms.