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Professor Wikeley publishes paper highlighting the risks of The Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Act 1994, saying that it reaffirms idea of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, begins the move away from GP-led benefits assessments, and is designed to encourage people to take up private insurance, leaving marginalised groups with inadequate protection.

What: Nick Wikeley (Professor of Law Southampton University and Upper Tribunal Judge – from 2008 onward) publishes a paper analysing The Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Act 1994, which he says is “is the most radical piece of social security legislation since the Social Security Act 1986”. He provides a commentary on the legislative changes from Invalidity Benefit to Incapacity Benefit, saying that this ‘represents a significant reduction in the scope of national insurance benefits for long-term sick and disabled people’ (p. 532), and the shift has ‘symbolic importance’ by “reaffirming the division between the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ poor” (p. 533). Wikeley shows a shift from 1991, where the government rejected using a points-based system for assessing entitlement to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and largely removed medical assessments, which were seen as ‘humiliating’ and ‘intrusive’ (Wikeley, 1995, p. 51), to the introduction of the All Work Test in 1994. Here we start to see a move away from GP-led benefits assessments and a rise in the role of ‘disability analyst’, with the government also rejecting suggestions that incapacity benefit appeals should go before the existing medical appeal tribunals (MATS) or disability appeal tribunals (DATs) (Wikeley, 1995, p. 531). He also charts the pre-history of the Act, showing the “the essential framework for the abolition of IVB” was politically crafted (p. 527).

Why significant: Wikeley highlights that the government’s policy is clearly to encourage people to take up private insurance instead of relying on social security and raises concerns that the “withdrawal of State benefits, combined with the problem of adverse selection in the private insurance market, will leave marginal groups with inadequate protection against risks” as they will not be able to “obtain affordable private insurance cover against the risk of serious long-term illness.” Wikeley also shows how the scene is set for the shift away from GP involvement in benefits assessments, as argued later in the same year by Mansel Aylward and John LoCascio (August 1995).


Wikeley, N. (1994). The Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Act 1994. Modern Law Review, 58(4): 523-533