Last chance to have your say on Employment Support Allowance

Sue Marsh reports on the welfare reform bill - in particular the changes to Employment Support Allowance, ESA.

By Sue Marsh who blogs at Diary of a Benefit Scrounger

Whenever I write about the Employment Support Allowance, (ESA, previously Incapacity benefit or IB) someone, somewhere will always use the phrase; “Well, obviously those in genuine need must be supported”. I have never before heard anyone say, we just don’t have the money so some genuinely sick and disabled people will just have to suffer. Yet as I’m writing this, that is the exact rationale being used.

It’s not debatable. The Harrington report, (pdf) the Citizens Advice Bureau, the government’s own advisory committee (the Statutory Social Security Advisory Committee), Compass (pdf), and even Professor Gregg, the professor responsible for designing ESA has concluded that ESA is “unfit for purpose” “chaotic” and “a shambles”.

Nonetheless, rather than accepting the advice of the Harrington Report in full as claimed, the roll out of ESA, first introduced under Labour’s James Purnell, has carried on relentlessly. The reassessment of all 1.7 million previous claimants of IB, started last week. There is little evidence that ESA assessments have changed in any significant way at all or that the Harrington report has in fact been implemented.

Forty per cent of claims are going to appeal with up to 80 per cent of those decisions overturned at tribunal, costing the taxpayer nearly £20m alone.

The system of assessment is totally flawed and penalises those with long term (chronic) conditions or mental illnesses. Many of these people, including those with terminal cancer, parkinsons, MS, kidney failure, heart disease, bowel disease, autism, schizophrenia and hundreds of other conditions are being found fit for work. Some are dying before lengthy appeals can be heard. This alone should shame us all and must be changed immediately.

In the comprehensive spending review however, George Osborne has compounded this “shambles” still further by announcing that for those found capable of doing some work with the right training and support, (the Work Capability Group) contributory ESA will now be time-limited to one year if the claimant has a working spouse.

At least another full third of claimants will be affected by this policy, resulting in many who are very unwell or seriously disabled being left totally without state support after a year. This will mean a loss of a massive £4,661 for working families who are already struggling to get by on one wage, whilst also coping with the strain of long term illness. It is vital to remember here, that this is something that will only affect working families. Anyone without a partner or with a partner who doesn’t work will continue to receive the benefit. Only families struggling to go on supporting themselves independently will be affected.

This goes totally against everything Iain Duncan-Smith says he wants to do with universal credit – making work pay and tapering benefits. The cap will be set at just over £5000 a year, with the total loss of ESA after that amount is earned. It is three times more than higher rate tax payers on over £40,000 will lose in child benefit. Put simply, working partners will have no choice but to give up work and become full time carers, pushing many of these families into 100 per cent state dependency.

Remember these people have been found to be seriously unwell or disabled, they are in genuine need, they are just considered capable of doing some work at some time. Whether there is work available or not, whether suitable opportunities can be found or not, their ESA will be stopped totally after one year. This is not supporting those in genuine need. This is cost cutting with a total disregard for the consequences.

Recently, the Department of Work and Pensions announced a public enquiry into ESA. The closing date for submissions is this Thursday, April 14th. Anyone affected should respond and make their arguments in a short statement. Will you lose ESA after a year? How will it affect your family? Do you currently claim IB but will soon be transferred across to ESA? Have you already been through an ESA assessment? Was it fair? Do you have a long term condition that will not improve in one year? Do you think the government understands these conditions?

Simply tell your story in your own words and send it in with your contact details via the email link. The more submissions the enquiry receives, the more chance there is of changing the policy. This part of the Welfare Reform Bill simply must not pass into law. It will cause untold hardship amongst one of the most vulnerable groups in our society – something we all claim to be against.

• To raise awareness, The Broken of Britain have been using the hastags #fitforwork and #TBofBworklifestory on twitter and will be running them until Thursday. If you get a chance, take a look. They are inspiring, thought provoking and humorous. If you’d like to join in, all the better!

41 Responses to “Last chance to have your say on Employment Support Allowance”

  1. Rosa

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  14. Anon E Mouse

    Sue Marsh – A very worthwhile article.

    One thing though. Wouldn’t you be better with perhaps some online form to simplify the process of those responding, as well as the 3000 word summary?

    That way you would be able to characterise the problems more easily and give simple statistics to justify your position. For example “20% of respondents are wheelchair bound” (and by definition couldn’t be considered for jobs requiring full mobility, say a traffic warden) or whatever.

    It may better serve to highlight the numbers involved…

  15. TiddK

    I’m not sure of the accuracy of this. Didn’t George Osborne say that those ESA claimants in the “Limited Capability for Work” group would ALL be time-limited to twelve months? Where do you get this “working spouse” bit from? Surely this is a misinterpretation of what was actually said in the Spending Review.

    It’s been INTERPRETED that way, because single claimants or those with a non-working partner, will simply claim Income Support when their 12 months of ESA runs out, right? This puts people like me – whose capital is invested to pay their rent and who therefore will be unable to claim Income Support – into a state of panic as it means their only source of income (apart from DLA) will be cut to zero.

    I’d be grateful if you would confirm what I’m saying – the NET EFFECT will be mostly on those with a working partner (as you said), but it will ALSO bear down on all those like me who cannot claim Income Support. In other words ALL those assessed as having “Limited Capability for Work” will be time-limited for ESA?

  16. TiddK

    Yes, I’m right, I think. I followed the link (above) to the Chancellor’s full announcement of his Spending Review and this is what he said :

    “We will time limit contributory Employment and Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group to one year. This is double the length of time than for contributory Jobseeker’s Allowance.”

    No mention of working partners at all.

  17. Sue Marsh

    RT @leftfootfwd: Last chance to have your say on Employment Support Allowance http://bit.ly/fxX45U

  18. False Economy

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  19. Nick H.

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  20. Margo Milne

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  21. bryan

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  22. SHEFFIELDUNCUT

    RT @suey2y: RT @leftfootfwd: Last chance to have your say on Employment Support Allowance http://bit.ly/fxX45U

  23. Sue Marsh

    Tiddk – I’m not sure I understand exactly what you’re asking, but you’re right to say that others will lose ESA too. The clauses, subclauses and exemptions are impossible to include in a short article, but perhaps this link will answer your questions. http://www.benefitsnow.co.uk/esa/incrit.asp

    You’re certainly right to say that those with capital will also face the time limit.

  24. Derek

    Contributory ESA will only be paid for a year. So if you have a working partner and their earnings are above your applicable amount you will be paid nothing, this does not necessarily mean they work full time. It also means if you have capital over £16,000 you will get no ESA.

  25. Sue Marsh

    Anon E Mouse – I’m not sure what you’re referring to – do you mean the enquiry? Sadly I have no say over the format and I won’t be compiling a “mass submission” lots of individual ones have more impact.

  26. sky

    The gov’s plan to cap contributory ESA to 12 months not only goes against the policy intention set out in the Welfare Reform Act 2007, it also withdraws the contract between the state citizen in that the state will no longer pay a working age contributory benefit for longer than a year. Let’s not forget also that to be entitled to contributory ESA you would have had to have paid the necessary NI contributions.
    Research shows that it will take a disabled person twice as along to find suitable employment as it does an able bodied person and employers are still less likely to take on a person with a disability making it harder for a disabled person to find work.
    Finally after ESA stops after 12 months, if you are living with a partner who works full time, you will not qualify for the means tested income related ESA, resulting in these families being considerable worse off. .

  27. Kazzy

    Will lots of individual submissions actually be read by anybody? Surely just a random few may be skimmed through, and salient points picked up on only if they pop up in that handful. Would it not be better to market the relevant points and leave one small paragraph for personal opinion, be far more practical?

  28. Romila Chaplin

    RT @leftfootfwd: Last chance to have your say on Employment Support Allowance http://bit.ly/fxX45U

  29. Damian

    Yes and then after the ESA C has run out – currently this is unlimited. the customer will be obliged to claim either Income Support or more likely ESA IR (income related). This is judged on the income of the entire household. Therefore effectively disqualifying anyone with a Partner who works and earns over a certain amount. What has not been pointed out is that the Universal Credit is far from Universal and excludes both JSA and ESA contribution based benefits.

  30. frances

    CarerWatch are dismayed by the alarm and fear the roll out of ESA is causing our members. CarerWatch do not think ESA is fit for purpose and think the roll out should be halted until it is made fit for purpose. The Act says that any one allocated to ESA has a condition which makes it unreasonable to require them to work. If this is a long term condition they will always have barriers to finding and keeping work and they should be allocated to the Support Group.. The WRAG is a half way house to being time limited and sanctioned and forced off benefits. It is effectively requiring people to work which is illogical. The WRAG should revert to its original role of a rehabilitation group for people who will get better

    With this one change ESA could become an excellent initiative to help people work and once the fear is removed people with long term disability might take a more positive approach and take a few risks to try and work

  31. TiddK

    So basically, they seem to be saying : “If you’re not in the Support Group, the contributory ESA will expire after 12 months. After that you can still get Income Support Plus (except we call it Income Related ESA) as long as you meet all the usual Income Support rules.” The rest of us are well and truly stuffed. I will lose my income, and have to live off DLA, until they take that off me too, when I will have nothing.

    Anyone got the key to the gas chamber? I’ll let myself in, but someone will have to clean up after me.

    Arbeit macht frei.

  32. Sue Marsh

    It seems like a daily nightmare to me that this is such a complex message to get across but that in fact the stats are clear and speak for themselves. This is chaos waiting to happen.

    If I had a forum where I could guarantee people would read beyond the 700 or so words needed for a blog article, I could write 30, 40 pages, maybe more that are so chaotic, so filled with inconsistencies, so unachievable so counter-productive about the cuts facing sick disabled people.

  33. People Before Profit

    RT @suey2y: RT @leftfootfwd: Last chance to have your say on Employment Support Allowance http://bit.ly/fxX45U

  34. M.Anthony

    I feel that it had a good intention, unfortunatly this intention to not penalise incapacitated people for having a go at trying to work some hours while not loosing there right to incapacity benefit was fragile. This turned out to have been the case as it was taken and used as a rouse to take people on it off of it by an incoming default coalition, which seems to be a little one sided to say the least. This administration would fit the clues for mental incapacity when it comes to understandingna society.
    That there is incapacity and then there is benifit, um, paid for by me when the national insurance was continuouslyndocked from my earnings!

  35. M.Anthony

    I feel that it had a good intention, unfortunatly this intention to not penalise incapacitated people for having a go at trying to work some hours while not loosing there right to incapacity benefit was fragile. This turned out to have been the case as it was taken and used as a rouse to take people on it off of it by an incoming default coalition, which seems to be a little one sided to
    say the least. This administration would fit the clause for mental incapacity when it comes to understanding of society.
    That there is incapacity and then there is benifit, um, paid for by me when the national insurance was continuously docked from my earnings!
    Comment by M.Anthony on April 12, 2011 at 7:09 am

  36. Reginald Pelle

    I am an autistic, and to me, ESA is as important and similar to students with EMA. ESA gives a person, a breath of independence, while structuring the kind of work, they want to do; while getting the appropriate support. And for the Tories to replace it, is a crazy approach; when they were in opposition, they were singing its praises. To say it is unfit for purpose, is an absolute lie. ESA has given me a chance to get the very thing that I want. A world where I can work, rest and play.

  37. K Cooper

    What gets me most is the esa contribution based element and mainly those in this element get no help whatsoever with nhs prescription costs and yet income related gets all the help they want despite both being on low income. I used to work then had to stop due to mental health problems and I also to look after my autistic, inattentive a.d.d child and yet I must pay for prescriptions and find the money for petrol to take me to my weekly therapy sessions and yet those on income related get it all free! I have medicines that I need to have and I am stuffed. It makes me despair of it all. And what really gets me is that there are probably 1000’s in a similar position. How fair is that?

  38. David Kirkham

    RT @suey2y: RT @leftfootfwd: Last chance to have your say on Employment Support Allowance http://bit.ly/fxX45U

  39. Tax isn’t taxing when you’re Goldman Sachs | Left Foot Forward

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  40. James Shellis

    I am a disabled male I am 64 yrs of age ,I have osteo arthritus ,spondylitus,high blood pressure.diabetes.and really bad back problems due to an accident at R D Jukes electrical,they made us pull in a 240mm armoured cable 1 metre weighs over a hundred weight.we was pulling the cable in and i had a red hot searing pain shoot right up my spine and into my neck.I have been off work since the 15th of sept 2008, crippled ever since.I cannot walk now,just a few steps with the aid of two walking sticks. and now they might be taking my benefits from me. why dont they just give me a pill and put me in my box.due you think i feel angry well you could be right.
    by the way my name is James Shellis.

  41. jason

    the incompedense of this amazes me not only was my money a week late on the change over. but failed to notify housing benefit causing a £650 bill from my housing association payable in three days, it sent me a letter saying i had not turned up for a meeting they had failed to notify me of…. i have been trying to ring them for two days still no answer!!!!!!!!!!!!

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