There are two areas where the Association may have something useful to contribute to the debate which the Labour Party must  have about social security.

Firstly, the assessment of disability and capacity for work.  Our policy is that assessment should be carried out by the NHS and that there should be a non means tested benefit to meet the additional costs faced by disabled people. The assessment process would be improved if all health records about a patient were linked together. The present assessment processes are perceived as oppressive and coercive and are conducted by commercial organisations which appear to be target driven to harass claimants.

Secondly, Basic Income. This is something the Association has been interested in since the early 1990s.  Renewed fears of the impact of automation on employment has renewed interest in what is also called Citizen’s Income – An unconditional, nonwithdrawable income paid to every individual as a right of citizenship.  Trials are going on in several European countries.  Basic income would remove some of the difficulties in the assessment of capacity for work, and the oppressive effects of means tested benefits, which still have a profound disincentive on many disadvantaged people, who face the loss of somewhere between 60% and 100% of any increase in their income.

There are considerable difficulties in moving from our present oppressive benefit system to something which might support, in several senses, the most disadvantaged in our society.  We should not forget that the most important part of the beginning of the welfare state in 1911 was not the provision of medical services but the institution of  sickness benefit.  The working of the benefit system now appears to be a substantial cause of illness among vulnerable people.

The Association’s expertise in benefit issues is confined to a small number of members, but I think in these areas we can and should make a submission to the Labour Party, and we should encourage a wider debate.

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