Government urged to abandon ESA cuts
A consortium of over 30 national charities has written to the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, urging him to abandon plans to cut Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which they believe will push disabled people further into poverty.
The letter was sent ahead of this week’s House of Lords’ vote on whether to cut ESA, which is currently £102 a week, by £30 for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).This provides support for people who are assessed as being unfit for work but able to undertake activities to help them move towards work. Almost half a million people who have had to give up work receive the benefit.
‘Closer to poverty’
The consortium of the Disability Benefits Consortium, includes Mencap, Mind, Parkinson's UK and three peers, including Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, the record-breaking Paralympian.
The letter states: “We believe the Government’s proposed cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will undermine its commitment to halve the disability employment gap, and push sick and disabled people further away from work and closer to poverty.
“Almost 70% of sick and disabled people we surveyed say this cut to ESA would cause their health to suffer and just under half said they would not be able to return to work so quickly. We call on the Government to listen to the damaging effect this will have on the lives of sick and disabled people and immediately halt this cut.”
Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive Turn2us said: “Already the many people living with a disability or illness we help are finding that the challenges they face are being exacerbated by debt, isolation and a constant struggle to meet the cost of bills.
“It’s never great news to hear that people whose lives are already under severe stress have more to worry about.
“I urge anyone in this situation to ensure they are getting the support they may be eligible for, and for the agencies that work with ill and disabled people to do all they can to help them access this support.”
The Government has however suggested that sick and disabled people who get this benefit are being disincentivised from finding work because of the £30-a-week more they get compared to those on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
A government spokesman told the Huffington Post UK: "This kind of scaremongering does nothing to help disabled people and fails to acknowledge that existing claimants and those with the most severe disabilities will not be affected at all.
"The current system needs reform because as it stands it fails to provide the right incentives and acts to trap people on welfare. We are committed to ensuring that people have the best support possible and that is what these changes are about."
If you have an illness or disability, the ‘Ill, Injured or Disabled' section of our website has useful information on the benefits, grants and other forms of support that may be available to you.