IDS calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs |Independent on Sunday |24 August 2015

From The Independent on Sunday, 23 August 2015. Story by Andy McSmith.

Disabled people and those too sick to work will be the next group feeling the impact of the Government’s drive to reduce the cost of welfare and the numbers out of work.

In a major speech on Monday, the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will warn that Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – the benefit paid to the sick and disabled – needs to be urgently overhauled, because too few ESA claimants are being helped to get work.

He also wants the system for deciding who is eligible for ESA tightened up.

Since he took on responsibility for overhauling the welfare state in 2010, Mr Duncan Smith has seen the number of people on Jobseekers’ Allowance fall by almost 700,000, nearly halving the 2010 figure, but the numbers on ESA have stayed stubbornly high at more than 2.5 million, a fall of about 90,000.

He blames a fault in the way ESA was devised. He is expected to say: “When ESA was introduced in 2008 it was intended to be a short-term benefit, with the vast majority of people being helped to return to work.

“ESA may have been designed with the right intentions, but at its heart lay a fundamental flaw. It is a system that decides you are either capable of work or you are not. This needs to change – things are rarely that simplistic.

“We need to look at the assessment we use for ESA – and I want to look at changing it so that it is better geared towards helping to get people prepared for and into what work they may be capable of, rather than parking them beyond work.”

Mr Duncan Smith is adamant that people who are genuinely too ill to work will still be protected by the welfare state, and he will stress that for many people – particularly those with mental issues – being in work acts as an effective therapy.

But others may fear that he is reacting to pressure to cut the welfare bill by any means that he can.

The Chancellor George Osborne wants the social security budget reduced by £13bn a year by 2020-21.

In his budget speech in July, Mr Osborne announced a £640bn cut in welfare payments for people in the work related activity group (WRAG), who are categorised as not fit enough for work, but able to carry out “work related activity”– a move condemned by disability rights campaigners.

According to the Disability News Service, the percentage of people living in households where at least one member was disabled and who were in “absolute poverty” rose from 27 per cent in 2012-13 to 30 per cent in 2013-14, an increase of about a tenth in just one year. It is feared that the drive to reduce the cost of ESA will mean more disabled people living in poverty.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said that many disabled people would welcome what Mr Duncan Smith is proposing, if it turns out that the reforms genuinely help people to find work – but not if it proved to be simply a way of cutting the welfare budget.

She said: “One of the problems has been that the work programme has totally failed people on ESA. The figures for getting people on ESA into work are very poor. Some people do want to work, with the right kind of support.

“We would like to see radical changes to the work programme in which it was really tailored to individual needs. If there was investment in that, you might see greater numbers of sick and disabled going into work, and that would be great.

“You also need a recognition that some people are not well enough to work, and reducing the money they get will simply drive more disabled people into poverty.”

5 thoughts on “IDS calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs |Independent on Sunday |24 August 2015”

  1. “Disabled people and those too sick to work will be the next group feeling the impact of the Government’s drive to reduce the cost of welfare and the numbers out of work.”

    “Will be” the next group ??? We already are! Nine times more affected than non-disabled! :

    Disabled people, who make up 1 in 13 of the population, have borne 29% of the burden, making them nine times more likely than the average person to have been affected.

    As 2015 dawned, the CWR calculated that when services and income are combined, people in poverty are losing £2,195 a year, while for disabled people the figure is £4,410. For those with a disability who also use social care services, the impact doubles to £8,832. As a spokesperson for the disability rights group the Wow Petition (War on Welfare) told me, “The problem [is] that this government, and George Osborne in particular, appear to be willing to target a grossly disproportionate quantum of cuts and pain towards disabled people and their carers, while lying to hide from the British public and the world the true impact of their cuts.”
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/13/tory-austerity-welfare-state-conservative

    IDS and his DWP are utterly shameless.

  2. Apologies I haven’t had the brain power to read all this article but WE have worked hard, paid our national insurance and should be able to claim finance support with dignity! It’s not our fault we are too ill to work.

    If the government is short of cash then stop all of the unemployed immigrants flooding into the UK. If we cannot afford to look after our own citizens then we cannot afford to house and support immigrants.

  3. Miss P – I’m sorry about your brain fog, and I agree with your first paragraph.

    However, in your second one, I fear you have fallen into the trap which the government wants you to, that of blaming and scapegoating the wrong people. The assault on Social Security benefits by the Tories is not because Britain cannot afford to look after its citizens, but is an ideologically driven agenda to vastly reduce, and very likely, to ultimately abolish entirely the welfare state.

    Our plight is not the fault of immigrants, it’s the fault of a ruthless Conservative government whose attitude to its citizens seems to survival of the fittest.

    1. Findlow, I agree with your every word in your response to Miss P. Cannot say anything more at present as feeling too ill but well said.

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