Feb 24 2012 Lennox Herald (main ed)
THE economy in West Dunbartonshire is set to take a £10m hit when people are forced off benefits.
The staggering sum is an estimate of how much the area will lose as a result of benefit reforms designed to get hundreds of people off handouts and into work.
Changes to the system, including tougher medical tests, will see a staggering 2800 people in this area lose Incapacity Benefit. And 1500 of these claimants are expected to be completely removed from the system.
A social and economic profile of the area has been produced by the council and warns that the reforms, including reductions in housing benefit and Disability Living Allowance, will result in the multi-million pound drop in the area’s economy.
In West Dunbartonshire, one in 10 people claim Incapacity Benefit but many will be moved onto the means-tested Employment Support Allowance following the stringent medicals.
It is estimated a further 900 claimants will be switched to Job Seekers Allowance.
The report by David Amos, the council’s interim executive director of corporate services, states: “It is anticipated that in total around 3800 people will find themselves placed onto the job market in West Dunbartonshire as a result of these changes.
“The government anticipates that this group of former claimants will, after coming off benefits, be able to find work. However, the job market in West Dunbartonshire is contracting because of the recession. It will be difficult therefore for the local labour market to create the number of jobs required to soak up this influx of new workers.
“These things taken together present the council and its partners with a number of significant challenges both in providing support to a large number of people who are difficult to place on the job market, and in finding ways to create and sustain local employment opportunities.”
Across the country, around 1.5 million people who have been claiming Incapacity Benefit are being reassessed for its replacement – the Employment Support Allowance – to see if they are able to carry out work.
There are still 2.6 million people claiming ESA and incapacity benefit, nearly a million of whom have been on them for more than a decade.
In January, the department of work and pensions revealed that eight out of 10 people tested could work.
Of those assessed, DWP decided that 57 per cent of claimants were no longer eligible for the hand-outs and a further 21 per cent could carry out some sort of work with the right support.
Just one fifth of claimants – 22 per cent – were found unable to do any form of employment.