Benefits change to help people into work

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BENEFITS claimants are set to see a change at the end of the month as the Government tries to “restore a safety net for those most in need”.

The Department of Work and Pensions is informing people in Hartlepool and east Durham that Contribution-based Employment and support allowance (ESA) (C) is changing.

People who are able to get back into the workplace and have been put in the “work-related activity group” – those who have health or disability needs but could return to work – can now only get the benefit for a maximum of 12 months.

Contribution-based ESA is an out-of-work benefit paid to people with health or disability needs based on their National Insurance contributions.

At the end of the month, claimants who have already received ESA (C) for 365 days or more will have their entitlement stopped.

Claimants who have no access to money or support will be able to claim income-related ESA.

People who already have entitlement to income-related ESA will automatically have their benefit adjusted.

People who have not previously been assessed for income-related ESA will be asked if they want to make a claim for this.

Figures for August 2011 showed there were 6,110 people claiming ESA or incapacity benefits, which his 10.5 per cent of the working population.

There were no figures available for east Durham.

Minister for Employment, Chris Grayling, said: “Now the welfare reform bill has been passed, we are a step closer to restoring the benefits system to its original purpose – a safety net for those most in need.

“Removing the sickness benefit trap is a vital part of changing the way this country views welfare.”

He added that Jobcentre Plus is taking more than 10,000 new vacancies nationwide every day, and the work programme will give support to those looking for work.

All claimants will be contacted before their contribution-based benefit ends.

People in the “support group” and those receiving or who are entitled to income-related ESA are unaffected by the change.