Social Policy and Society


Retrenching Incapacity Benefit: Employment Support Allowance and Paid Work

Linda Piggotta1 and Chris Grovera2

a1 Department of Applied Social Science, Lancaster University E-mail:

a2 Department of Applied Social Science, Lancaster University


In October 2008 in the UK Incapacity Benefit (IB) (the main income replacement benefit for sick and disabled claimants) was replaced by the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for new claimants. Drawing upon recent work on the retrenchment of welfare benefits and services this paper examines the context for the changes, the marketisation of the job placement services for ESA claimants and the extension of conditionality to sick and disabled benefit claimants. The paper argues that the introduction of ESA is a good example of the retrenchment of benefits for the majority of sick and disabled people. The paper concludes that ESA can be interpreted as creating a group of disadvantaged people through which the private sector can profit.