January 26, 2016
Ahead of a key vote on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill in the House of Lords this week, more than 30 national charities, including Action for M.E., have signed an open letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith.
The letter warns that the Government’s proposed cut of £30 a week for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will “push disabled people further away from work and closer to poverty.”
The WRAG is specifically there to provide support for those people who are assessed as being unfit for work but able to undertake activities to help them move towards work. Currently there are almost half a million sick and disabled people receiving this benefit.
From our extensive consultations with people with M.E., the work of our Welfare Advice and Support service, and the daily contact with have with those affected by M.E., we know that cutting benefits will move people with M.E. further away from work. A survey of 500 people by the charity Mind found that only 6% of people with M.E. had moved into full or part time work as a result of being in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG).
The open letter to Iain Duncan Smith, signed by 37 members of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), says:
“Dear Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, we believe the Government’s proposed cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will undermine its commitment to halve the disability employment gap, and push sick and disabled people further away from work and closer to poverty.
“The Government committed to protecting disability benefits, but instead is pushing through a cut of £30 a week to new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA. These are sick and disabled people who have been found currently unable to work. The Government says this £30 disincentivises sick and disabled people from finding work, but it has so far offered no evidence for this claim. In fact a recent independent Review showed the opposite is true: that this cut will make it harder for disabled people to find work.
“Almost 70% of sick and disabled people we surveyed say this cut to ESA would cause their health to suffer and just under half said they would not be able to return to work so quickly. We call on the Government to listen to the damaging effect this will have on the lives of sick and disabled people and immediately halt this cut.”