The government should radically overhaul the welfare system for sick and disabled people by slashing weekly benefits by nearly half, a top think tank has said.
In a new report out today, the right-wing Reform research group said the existing employment and support allowance has "failed to encourage sick and disabled people to work".
"The government will fail to reach its target of a higher employment rate for disabled people without root-and-branch change," researchers added.
Reform wants the government to cut the weekly benefit paid to 1.3m sick and disabled people from £131 to £73 – the same amount of basic pay that Jobseeker's Allowance claimants receive. The report's authors said that having a higher rate of weekly benefit for sick and disabled people "encourages people to stay on sickness benefits rather than move into work".
"Too many people with health conditions are being left stranded on incapacity benefits," said report co-author Charlotte Pickles. "Employment not only provides a source of income, but improves social inclusion, builds self-esteem and improves an individual’s physical and mental health."
Reform's proposals have faced sharp criticisms, however, from charities, including Mencap, which works with people with learning disabilities.
"Cutting their benefits, of which almost 7 in 10 disabled people say will cause their health to suffer, will do nothing to improve their employment chances and would instead push them closer to poverty and further from employment," said Mencap policy head Dan Scorer, citing a survey of people claiming disability benefits from last October.
"Disabled people were hit by £18bn of benefit cuts in the last parliament. Targeting them again will do nothing to help the Government achieve its desire to halve the disability employment gap," Scorer added.