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Government Advisor Matthew Oakley Suggests Scrapping The Support Group

March 11, 2016

Government advisor, Matthew Oakley, recently published a report titled Closing the gap: creating a framework for tackling the disability employment gap in the UK,

This report suggests a major reform of ESA and the WCA. His suggestions include scrapping the Support Group. (red bolding below mine.)


Four principles that should form the basis for reform of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the WCA are outlined below. It is important to highlight that this would not be a cost-cutting exercise. The reforms proposed would combine existing money and aim to distribute it better on the basis of need.

  • Splitting benefit eligibility from setting conditionality
    As suggested in other reports, the assessment of eligibility for benefit should be split from the assessment of an individual’s ability to move towards and enter work. This would ensure that, no matter what the level of benefit an individual receives, they will still have an incentive to engage with the support available and move towards work if they are able to.
  • Creating a common income-replacement element in Universal Credit
    The most obvious way of delivering this would be to remove the WCA and create one aligned income replacement benefit within Universal Credit. Anyone out of work and claiming benefits would receive the same basic entitlement to Universal Credit.
  • Accounting for the extra costs of disability
    In effect, this would remove the Support Group element of ESA
    and align benefit rates for disabled and non-disabled claimants in Universal Credit. However, it is clear that those with a disability often face extra costs of living.To meet these extra costs, existing spending on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) / Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and the support Group element of ESA should be brought together to finance a new extra costs benefit. Eligibility for this benefit should be determined on the basis of need, with an assessment replacing the WCA and PIP assessment and designed with extensive consultation.Where individuals are unable to work, there should also be a principle that the level of benefit provided is sufficient to allow them to live comfortably and engage fully in society. In the longer-term, the Government should explore whether these benefits could be set to ensure that disabled claimants are lifted out of poverty with the income they receive.
  • Out on limb – contributory ESA (ESA(c))
    ESA(c) is currently expected to run alongside Universal Credit. However, these reforms will mean that the basis for determining eligibility (the WCA) to ESA(c) will be removed. This means that reform will be needed. Many reports have outlined arguments for strengthening the role of contributory benefits. Many of these have focussed on the role that a form of privately run social insurance could play in both increasing benefit generosity and improving the support that individuals get to manage their conditions and move back to work. These wider reforms of ESA would provide a much needed opportunity to revisit these arguments and build a benefit system that is both more supportive and more sustainable in the long term.

Readers, I would like to believe that this could be a good thing. However, I tried that with PIP which was sold to disabled people as ‘focusing on what we can do not what we can’t.”

So far, the stories I have heard about PIP have been bitterly disappointing and have left me with a deep fear of being transferred from my indefinite DLA Award, so now I have strong doubts about these new ideas.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2016 1:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Poppy's Place.

  2. March 11, 2016 1:48 pm

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  3. March 11, 2016 5:09 pm

    In the full report he suggests merging the support group element with PIP, and to pay that alongside universal credit, with everyone receiving the same rate of UC. There are four levels of conditionality for UC (including fully unconditional for those too sick for work or work related activity). Given he talks about standardising levels of UC to the same rate, I think by support group element he means the extra £37 a week; rather than the concept of unconditional benefit. Also he states: “Where individuals are unable to work, there should also be a principle that the level of benefit provided is sufficient to allow them to live comfortably and engage fully in society.” (Which seems to be a concession that some people are too ill to work).

    When they first brought in ESA only about 1 in 8 people were supposed to be in the support group – now it’s 3 in 4. Our campaigning and hard work has forced u-turn after u-turn – we must not stop!

  4. March 11, 2016 10:03 pm

    I was very worried about being switched from DLA to PIP, but actually ended up getting slightly more money. So there is a little hope. Now all I have to worry is the upcoming ESA reassessment.

  5. anon permalink
    March 11, 2016 10:29 pm

    So all is not well at DWP towers, if looking at it from a different angle, all benefits must fit within the framework of UC, obviously the IT system is creaking under the changeover and is not working combining disability benefits with other benefits, so bits and pieces have to be dropped, tweaked and rewritten.

    So basically its “computer says no” until everyone is just, “Universal perfect”.

  6. Frances permalink
    March 12, 2016 11:13 am

    We agree. At first glance this looks good but we are so shell shocked now that we don’t believe or trust anyone.

    Replacement income is meant to be for people who can’t work. So the question is – can sick and disabled people work? The government line is that they mostly can. Disability campaigners want to go along with this because they want it to be true.

    But you don’t get safe secure replacement income from the state if you can work. Just like you can’t get support for living independently if you can already do that. Benefits are for ‘can’t do’.

    No one wants to talk about ‘can’t do’. But we have to. Talking ‘can do’ in employment leaves the government an open goal. They need to intervene in the competitive labour market to deliver ‘can do’. And that would cost them money. So until then it’s mostly ‘cant do’. Very sad – but true.

    Sorry, we have to redesign the ESA benefit system for ‘can’t do’.

  7. March 12, 2016 1:21 pm

    #waitamo…I think Mr Oakley needs a reality check. First of all he needs to answer the question what is the #ESAsupportgroup there for? The Answer is straightforward – its for those disabled people who for whatever reason cannot work at present – and its been medically proven through a combination of GP/Specialist and so on. Now, if he’s talking about providing support back into work for this group – actually understanding their conditions BEFORE a decision is made – all well and good – if though, as I suspect its just a measure to help the chancellor with his piggybank – I suggest he go back to the drawing board and think again…because if he were anybody in support group forced to justify their existence – he’d be thinking very differently – #onlywhenithitsyou #torybritain

  8. beastrabban permalink
    March 13, 2016 8:19 pm

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    The writer of this piece says that they’d like to believe this is a good thing that will benefit the disabled, but after the way PIP was introduced to make claiming benefits worse for disabled people, the likely result is more disappointment. Quite.

    Matthew Oakley has always stood for privatisation and cuts to public services and welfare benefits. I doubt he’s changed his tune now. My guess is that this another attempt by the government to deflect criticism for their appalling welfare policy. It’s presumably sunk into the head of someone in the DWP how unpopular this is, and so now they’re frightened. It also struck me that that it’s also to save Ian Duncan Smith’s face. He was whining a few weeks ago about how horrible people were to blame him for conditionality and welfare to work, when it was Labour who introduced it. I said in my blog that this cut no ice, because regardless of Blair’s introduction of it, he could have repealed or abolished it. It seems someone else thought the same way, and now the Tories are trying to look as though they’re doing just that.

    I don’t believe them. This government is made up of two many liars, who have done nothing but lie ever since Cameron first walked into No. 10. The Same Difference blogger is undoubtedly right. If you believe this, you will be disappointed.

  9. March 13, 2016 10:21 pm

    Reblogged this on markcatlin3695's Blog.


  1. Government advisor Matthew Oakley suggests scrapping ESA support group | Same Difference | Vox Political
  2. Government Advisor Matthew Oakley Suggests Scrapping The Support Group | Same Difference | Britain Isn't Eating

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