Parliamentary Question: ESA fit to work policy for people with ME, 19 May 2011

In a written question, Ian Swales (Liberal Democrat MP for Redcar) asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to state his policy on measures to ensure that people with ME who are unable to work are not required to undertake unsuitable work or work-related activity.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling replied on 19 May 2011:

We recognise that ME has a wide spectrum of symptoms and can be a severely debilitating condition. The effects of ME on an individual may contribute to someone meeting the entitlement conditions for benefits.

When someone’s health condition or disability, or the treatment they are receiving, makes it unreasonable to expect them to work we are committed to supporting them. The appropriate benefit in such cases is employment and support allowance (ESA). Entitlement to ESA is based on an individual’s functional ability rather than the condition itself. Anyone claiming ESA will undergo the work capability assessment. Those with the most severe functional limitations will be placed in the Support Group, for which the undertaking of work related activity is not a requirement.

People with limited capability for work will be placed in the Work-Related Activity Group. These individuals may be required to undertake work-related activity, detailed in their action plan, which must be reasonable in their circumstances. If they feel the requirement on them is unreasonable, they will be able to request the activity is reconsidered. Advisers will not be able to direct people on ESA to seek, apply for or do work, nor will they be directed to undertake medical treatment.

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