How would cuts to Employment and Support Allowance affect you?

URGENT – YOUR VIEWS ON CUTS TO ESA IN THE WELFARE REFORM BILL NEEDED BY 15TH NOVEMBER

Spartacus produced a briefing when the Chancellor announced his plans this summer to cut £30 per week from the benefits of people in the ESA Work Related Activity Group in order to incentivise them to return to work.

We said that cutting social security for disabled people would place the UK government in breach of its international treaty obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People. What’s more, this plan is based on the false assumption that people in the WRAG have motivational problems, rather than health or labour market barriers.

Now we welcome a parliamentary review led by Lord Low of Dalston in December to give evidence on how these proposed cuts will affect disabled people and their families. A group of disability charities including Mind, MS Society, National Autistic Society, RNIB, Royal Mencap Society and Scope wants to collect your views on this issue if you receive ESA and would be affected by a cut of £30 a week.

Please help them produce a report to submit to this review. Below is the Disability Benefits Consortium’s consultation questions (you can read more here). Please send your response to Natalie.armitage@mencap.org.uk using the subject line ‘Review of reduction to ESA WRAG payment’.

Getting the views of disabled people and their families

We want to hear from you if you are currently in the ESA WRAG and would like you to tell us about what it would mean if you had around £30 less a week to live on. You might want to tell us about your experiences of living day-to-day when you were waiting for your work capability assessment, for example.

We also want to find out about the current effectiveness of support within the ESA-WRAG for disabled people undertaking ‘work related activity’ such as training or support to look for work. Getting this right is important so that those people who can work have the opportunity to do so.

Please answer the below questions. Your answers will be incorporated into the final report. We would like to include quotes in the final report. If you would prefer to remain anonymous then please let us know.

Questions

  1. Tell us about the support you receive from being in ESA WRAG. For example, you can tell us about how you spend the money you receive and/or the support that is offered to you to help you move towards employment.
  1. What would be the impact on your daily life if you did not have this payment of almost £30 per week? Please feel free to draw on your experience of receiving less money when you were waiting for your assessment for ESA (the work capability assessment).
  1. Would there be an impact on your ability to look for work if the amount of money was reduced? What do you think this impact, if any, would be?
  1. How ready for work do you consider yourself to be? Would further support help you to feel ready for work if you do not feel so already? What types of support, if any, would be helpful to you?

Please send your response to Natalie.armitage@mencap.org.uk using the subject line ‘Review of reduction to ESA WRAG payment’.

The consultation will be open until 15 November 2015, midnight.

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ESA Myths

Are people in the ESA WRAG nearly fit for work?
The message we often hear from politicians and the media is that people in the ESA “Work Related Activity Group” have only minor ailments or temporary health conditions and therefore could work now or in the near future if they made more effort. The implication is that being in the ESA WRAG is a lifestyle choice.
It’s time to dispel this myth and tell the truth about people in the WRAG. Here are 3 profiles of claimants who would be placed in the WRAG in a Work Capability Assessment.
Do these people have the choice to go out and get a job?
Mike, 40, suffered a stroke two years ago while at working as an engineer which left him with brain injury and epilepsy that his specialist says are unlikely to improve further. Under the Work Capability Assessment he scores points for loss of consciousness due to seizure 2 -3 times a month (6 points); inability to initiate or complete personal action for the majority of time (9 points) and occasionally uncontrollable episodes of aggressive behaviour (9 points).
Mike scores 24 points but doesn’t quality for the Support Group.

Alan, 29 has autism and lives with his parents. Alan enjoys his supported voluntary work in a community farm but he has never been in paid work. Alan has a reduced awareness of hazard which puts him at significant risk of injury to himself or others requiring frequent supervision (9 points). He can’t cope with minor planned changes to his daily routine (9 points). He can’t get around, even to a familiar place without another person to accompany him (9 points) and he experiences significant distress from social contact with an unfamiliar person (9 points)

Alan scores 36 points but doesn’t qualify for the Support Group.

Sheila was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis eight years ago. She carried on working as a sales rep until her symptoms became too severe as the disease progressed. Sheila can’t walk more than 100m due to muscle weakness and balance problems (9 points), (she can’t self-propel a wheelchair because of upper body weakness). She has difficulty controlling her bladder meaning she often needs a change of clothing (6 points). Her co-ordination difficulties mean she can no longer use a keyboard effectively (9 points). Sheila experiences cognitive dysfunction and depression, which has worsened since had to give up work, and as a result she frequently can’t initiate and complete at least 2 personal actions (6 points).
Sheila scores 30 points but doesn’t qualify for the Support Group.

Mike, Alan and Sheila are not real people, but illustrations of how the WCA measures illness, disability and fitness for “work related activity” in a way that has no bearing on either medical reality, or the real world of work. Without financial support to overcome the significant obstacles they face, and without employers prepared to tailor their job conditions considerably, real people like Mike Alan and Sheila don’t have realistic job prospects, now or in the future.

The current work preparation schemes for people in the WRAG provide almost no specialist support for people wanting to move towards work.

These profiles show you can score well over the necessary 15 points in the WCA and still be placed in the WRAG. The WCA takes no account of how multiple symptoms or difficulties decrease someone’s chances of working.

Adapted from the Spartacus ESA Mythbuster by Catherine Hale, Caroline Richardson and Stef Benstead, with contributions from Jane Young and Sam Barnett-Cormack