Recent Changes and Reforms to the United Kingdom’s Income Support Program for People with Disabilities

DRC Working Paper 2019-16
Publisher: Cambridge, MA: Mathematica
Oct 09, 2019
Hande Inanc and David R. Mann

Key Findings:

  • There is no evidence suggesting that novel program components of ESA would (or would not) benefit U.S. disability income support programs such as SSDI.
  • ESA’s development and initial reforms highlight the importance of testing substantive program changes before they are deployed.
  • Making modest changes in response to rapid cycle feedback has been a highlight of ESA. A similar approach might benefit U.S. disability income support programs.
  • Frequent live interactions between claimants and representatives of ESA may help lower initial decision appeal rates and produce more accurate decisions.

There is growing interest among policymakers in the United States (U.S.) about income support programs for people with disabilities in other developed countries. Lessons learned by these programs can help inform changes to U.S. programs that provide income support program to this population. Some studies have examined the effects of major program reforms in other countries but there has been limited focus in describing these programs’ rules, processes, and reforms in detail. In this manuscript, we describe the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) recent income support programs for people with disabilities in detail. In the mid-2000s, the U.K. developed a new disability income support program—Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Among ESA’s key objectives was to reduce the U.K.’s expenditures on income support for people with disabilities (as a share of gross domestic product) and empower people with disabilities to enter or re-enter the labor force after receiving some assistance.


Disability Research Consortium


Social Security Administration

Time Frame


Senior Staff

Hande Inanc
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David Mann
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