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ESA ‘Shake Up’ Considered

July 2, 2015

Plans to scrap part of the UK’s main sickness benefit are being considered, a leaked Whitehall paper suggests.

It describes the Employment and Support Allowance as a “passive” benefit which does not “incentivise” people to find a job, and proposes abolishing the work-related activity group (WRAG) category.

If scrapped, weekly payments would drop nearly £30 from £102.15, bringing it in line with Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it did not comment on leaks.

The government is seeking to save £12bn from its welfare bill.

It is expected next week’s Budget will unveil only some of its proposed cuts, with others to be announced in the autumn spending review.

How much is Employment and Support Allowance?

Work-related activity group: Up to £102.15 a week

Support group: Up to £109.30 a week

And Jobseeker’s Allowance?

Aged 18 to 24: Up to £57.90 a week

Aged 25 or over: Up to £73.10 a week

Fit for work?

The paper seen by BBC News was written by the Department for Work and Pensions before the general election in May.

It is marked “not government policy”, but the BBC understands the proposals are still under consideration.

About two million people in the UK receive the Employment and Support Allowance, in some form.

It is paid out to disabled or sick people who are unable to work or need help getting back to work.

Currently, people undergo a fit-for-work test to decide how their illness or disability affects their ability to work.

If eligible for the benefit, they are placed in either the WRAG category, and must prepare for employment, or a support group category and are not expected to work.

Those who do not meet the criteria may be given Jobseeker’s Allowance of up to £73.10 a week instead.

The welfare budget in brief

  • In 2015-6, spending on benefits, pensions and tax credits is expected to total £220bn
  • State pensions and age-related benefits, such as winter fuel allowance and free TV licences, will account for £95bn
  • Child tax credits and working tax credits – £30bn
  • Housing benefit – £26bn
  • Disability and incapacity benefits – £37bn
  • Child benefit – £12bn
  • Pension credit – £6bn
  • Jobseekers Allowance and income support – £5bn

Source: Institute for Fiscal Studies

‘Millions saved’

The paper also proposes renaming the assessment tests “employment capability assessments”, rather than work capability assessments, in order to focus attention on job-seeking, not benefit-seeking.

It says removing the £30 top-up for WRAG claimants would give people less reason to worry that they were getting the “wrong” outcome from their assessment.

The tests would identify claimants’ strengths, rather than focus on what they could not do, and would be carried out much sooner in the application process, the paper says.

Under the plans, the government could save hundreds of millions of pounds by the end of the decade, the paper says.

Charlie Pickles from Reform, a think tank focusing on public service delivery that was co-founded by Conservative MP Nick Herbert, said the current system encourages people to stay on the benefit rather than finding work.

“We have a huge gap between disabled people’s employment rate and non-disabled people’s employment rate and if you are building in perverse incentives, within a benefit system, then you are encouraging people to move onto that benefit,” he said.

Ministers are also understood to be considering changes to the support group category of the Employment and Support Allowance, with a possible announcement in the 8 July Budget.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “This is speculation based on documents leaked before the election. We do not comment on leaked documents.”

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2015 11:05 am

    Why do they think that everyone is capable of doing a job, do they not realise that some of us are physically and mentally incapable of working anymore and it would be nice to get something back from all the tax we have paid throughout the time we did work.

  2. July 2, 2015 11:50 am

    This is disgusting why are they so obsessed with destroying people’s lives?

  3. July 2, 2015 12:16 pm

    The way I see it is they will cut the overall numbers but place but place more in the support group, they will pay out the same money but to fewer people. This is something that could cause riots that could bring the government down.

  4. July 2, 2015 1:11 pm

    Just because someone MAY be able to do a particular activity, do any jobs actually exist which call for just that particular activity? Even if they did, would people be able to travel in order to do them, could they do them 8 hours a day, 5 days a week?

    How far is this going to go? After all, we could utilise a corpse as a draught excluder or a hat stand if we followed that line of thinking!

    All the money that has been wasted on assessing people for this flawed WCA,, the DWP fighting appeals, all the debates, reports, arguments, not to mention the stress and misery inflicted on claimants having to fight the flawed decisions of Atos and the DWP, and the poor souls who have lost their lives due to the complete fiasco that is ESA, and now they are talking about abolishing one of the groups!

    What with this, and redefining child poverty, In Dire Straits, will be redefining death next! IDS, digging up a cemetery near you soon….

  5. July 2, 2015 1:53 pm

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  6. I'mWorthMore permalink
    July 2, 2015 3:11 pm

    I can’t find anyone named ‘Charlie Pickles’ from Reform (described by BBC as male). There is a Charlotte Pickles who joined Reform as Senior Research Director in August 2014, with a particular focus on welfare reform, criminal justice and cross-cutting issues. ‘Charlotte’ worked for two years as Expert Advisor to Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, helping to design and deliver the Government’s welfare agenda.
    I expect more journalistic accuracy from a news broadcaster such as the BBC.
    But whatever.

    What I am concerned about is the statement: “We have a huge gap between disabled people’s employment rate and non-disabled people’s employment rate and if you are building in perverse incentives, within a benefit system, then you are encouraging people to move onto that benefit,” [Charlie Pickles] said.

    This is nothing more than priming the public for more unjustified cuts to disabled people, a blatant misdirection using a subtext that implies that being disabled is a lifestyle choice intentionally donned for the sole purpose of grabbing an extra 30-odd quid a week at the largess of the taxpayer. In short, there is no acknowledgement of the facts that disabled people are less likely to be hired than abled job candidates and in ALL instances those currently qualifying for ESA WRAg have ALREADY been deemed unable to work by the WCA.

    The public is losing its appetite for vilifying claimants, the ill and disabled and many are speaking out about it. As Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons on 29 June:

    “In the 1980s we saw the unions being targeted; today the focus is on the poor and the vulnerable.

    “The narrative associated with the so-called welfare reforms has been one of divide and rule, deliberately attempting to vilify people who receive social security as the new undeserving poor.

    “The Government have spread a culture of pejorative language, such as “shirkers” and “scroungers”. They have intentionally attempted to demonise social security recipients, including disabled people.

    “The innuendo that people with a disability or illness might be faking it or are feckless is, quite frankly, grotesque… Unfortunately, the regular misuse of statistics is another way that the Government are trying to harden the public’s attitude.”

    I’m no acolyte of Labour who introduced early welfare reform, borrowed WCA definitions from a failed and corrupt US insurance company and who campaigned in the recent GE as being little different from the Tory agenda. But it is refreshing to see Ms Abrahams speak out on this issue and to stand up and oppose government sponsored persecution of disabled people.

  7. josephine jeffries permalink
    July 4, 2015 10:44 pm

    I’m dreading whats going to happen to my hubby and I we’ve both worked from a young age all our lives and tried to save for our retirement be I have been retired off due to ill health from 32yrs as a senior care worker a job that I ate slept and drank at the age of 50 and hubby a hgv1long distance lorry driver whom never retired until he was forced to due to a work accident at 68 both working long hrs to get a decent standard of living now I’m on esa and hubby state pension which we just manage to get by we don’t have a lavish lifestyle we just ask to be able to pay our bills without going into debt which we really struggle some weeks and if our money was reduced well we would have no quality of life at all if my disabled car was taken from us i would be totally housebound as I have a job to walk any distance is hospital doctor dentist etc when I’ve worked all my life and payed my taxes yet I see PPL around us whom have never contributed to this country and are genuinely bone idle attack the youngster who have never worked since leaving school not the over 50s

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