Autumn Statement – what does it mean for people with epilepsy?
Today the Government has set out plans for new welfare reforms, which it says will help more people with disabilities and health conditions such as epilepsy to benefit from flexible working, including working from home.
As part of new plans put forward in the Autumn Statement, people receiving health-related benefits will be asked to look for work that can be done remotely or with sufficient flexibility to meet their needs. The media reported that some people may have their benefits reduced if they have been assessed as being capable of working and can’t evidence that they are looking for home-based or flexible options.
Back in September, the Government opened a consultation inviting views on making changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), a test that looks at how much a disability or illness limits a person’s ability to work. The Department for Work and Pensions said that they wanted to better reflect the modern world of working, while ensuring that people have appropriate work opportunities and tailored support.
If someone claiming benefits who is deemed capable to work isn’t able to find a job after 18 months of searching, they will be asked to do a work placement “to increase their skills and improve employability”. And the Government has said that anyone in this situation who chooses not to look for work for six months may have benefits stopped.
Nicola Swanborough, Head of External Affairs at the Epilepsy Society, said: “Epilepsy is not a one-size-fits-all condition and someone’s perceived ‘capability to work’ might change dramatically from one day to the next. We know that having a seizure can take a huge physical toll and require a lot of rest and recovery time, and the condition can also go hand in hand with anxiety and depression. Sadly the opportunities out there for people whose epilepsy is not well controlled can be limited in some areas.
“The world of work is evolving rapidly, and we’d definitely like to see people with epilepsy being able to benefit from more flexible opportunities, fewer commuting requirements and supportive employers. But it’s equally imperative that those returning to the workplace feel fully supported, with adjustments made for them as appropriate, and that those carrying out work capability assessments are well trained to understand what is an unpredictable and complex condition.”
Access to free prescriptions
The Back to Work plan also announced plans for people deemed ‘fit to work’ to face losing access to free prescriptions if they don’t actively seek employment. We confirmed last week that people with epilepsy will not lose access to free prescriptions, as they receive these due to having a chronic condition.
There will be no changes to disability benefits under these reforms, which related specifically to employment-related benefits.
Epilepsy training in the workplace
We offer a full programme of epilepsy training courses in the workplace. If you are in work or returning to work and would like your employers and colleagues to feel more confident about supporting someone with epilepsy, you can find out more here.