9 days, over 14 phone calls, and a lot of Vivaldi later…
Government plans to cut unemployment benefit for new disabled claimants could leave some unable to meet essential living costs, MPs have warned.
The Commons Work and Pensions Committee said the evidence that reducing Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) would provide an incentive for disabled to find work was “ambiguous at best”.
While the Government’s aim to halve the “disability employment gap” – the difference between the employment rates of the disabled and non-disabled – was laudable, it said ministers had failed to commit to a timeline for achieving it.
Under Government plans, from April new ESA claimants adjudged to be capable of work in the future will receive £73.10 per week – the same as the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) – a reduction of £29.05 on the current rate. However, the committee said the measure – intended to save a total of £1 billion by 2020-21 – could leave some with lower disposable incomes than JSA claimants as they often faced unavoidably higher living costs.
It was imperative, the committee said, that the Department for Work and Pensions provided additional financial support for those claimants in the so-called work-related activity group (WRAG) who found they were unable to cover their essential living costs due to their condition.
“The Government expects the new, lower rate for the ESA-WRAG to enhance incentives to work. The evidence is, at best, ambiguous,” it said. “We heard substantial concerns about the possible impact of the new rate on disabled people’s capacity to look for and move into work.”
The report also noted, that at current employment levels, halving the “disability employment gap” would require an extra 1.2 million to 1.5 million disabled people to find work.
However, it cited one estimate by the Learning and Work Institute that on current rates of progress, it would take over 200 years to achieve.
Committee chairman Frank Field said: “We expect the Government to respond to this report before the proposed new lower rate of ESA is due in April.
“If they intend to proceed with these cuts, we expect an explanation of how this will not be detrimental to its target of halving the disability employment gap, by making finding and keeping a job even more difficult for disabled people than it already is.”
The DWP secretary says benefits should not be a route out of poverty
Disabled people should have to work their way out poverty and not simply be taken out of it by state financial assistance, Iain Duncan Smith has said.
The Work and Pensions Secretary said it was not the role of government to pay the disabled enough to stop them being poor and that the correct way to escape poverty was by working.
“We don’t think of people not in work as victims to be sustained on government handouts. No, we want to help them live lives independent of the state,” he told the annual Conservative party conference in Manchester.
“We won’t lift you out of poverty by simply transferring taxpayers’ money to you. With our help, you’ll work your way out of poverty.”
Mr Duncan Smith argued that many sick and disabled people wanted to work and that the Government should give them support to find jobs and make sure the welfare system encouraged them to get jobs.
The Work and Pensions Secretary criticised what he dubbed Labour’s “something for nothing culture”, and also dismissed protests against his policies, which his party’s conference has been subject to.
In his wide-ranging speech, Mr Duncan Smith also criticised the old Employment Support Allowance benefit for signing people off work when they were judged by doctors as too sick to work.
“The ESA has Labour’s essential mistake at its heart – that people are passive victims. Of course if you treat people as passive that’s what they’ll become,” he said.
“It’s no wonder, when the system makes doctors ask a simplistic question: are you too sick to work at all? If the answer is yes, they’re signed off work – perhaps for ever.”
The disability charity Scope said it agreed that disabled people needed better help to get into work, but warned that cutting financial support would actually undermine this goal.
“The Secretary of State is right to say that many disabled people can, and want to, work. If we are going to halve the disability employment gap, we need to remove the barriers disabled people still face when finding, staying in and progressing in work,” said Mark Atkinson, the organisation’s interim chief executive.
“However, we are deeply concerned that lowering the financial support unemployed disabled people receive, will push people further from the workplace. Those in the Work Related Activity Group who receive Employment Support Allowance are disabled people who’ve been independently assessed as being unfit for work. It is not a passive benefit. Everyone in the Group must take steps towards finding work.”
Work Programme Provider A4E is harassing people who have been signed off their services..
From the Facebook page ‘Atos Miracles’
“Asked on here before about this…son in support group but was on work programme. A4e keep ringing him to “see how he is”. I spoke to cab and they said he has no obligation to (participate in the ) work programme so i rang A4e to tell them that. She said they have a duty of care n i said well your letters and phone calls are stressing him so she agreed to check into it. Another letter has arrived and they want to phone him next week and it states he has to let them know if he cant be available. Harrasment? He is on the autistic spectrum and any stress affects him terribly.”
*(comment) I imagine they get paid every time they send a letter or make a phone call. If so we could be looking at outright organised fraud, in the same way they defrauded the government by claiming for tagging people who had long since been released from their tagging order. I wonder if anyone is investigating this?
*(comment) If these people could just read a pamphlet about the autistic spectrum they may be a little less clueless. They probably don’t ‘believe’ it exists. What a waste of time and money to the public purse and of course how upsetting for you both. Xx
*(comment) I’m in the support group was in the Wrag group and I’ve started getting calls from the work program people too. I told the woman to leave me alone and if she carried on phoning me I’d report her for harassment and also told her I would speak to my mental health support worker about it. I blocked her number from calling also.
*(comment) My son’s autistic, has to do free work placements in factories or they stop his money. He signs on weekly he gets dla but only a low rate is classed fit for work. They don’t seem to understand he has trouble communicating and understanding people
*(comment) If anyone is distressing and alarming him, then call the police and start legal proceedings against A4e. They will soon stop. Also contact your local councillor and MP.
*(comment) It’s harassment . If he’s in a support group they can’t do this. He will be heading straight for meltdown territory if they keep this up. Time to threaten with legal action under the DDA??
*(comment) You look at your bank account to find there was no payment… You ring dwp to be told ‘we tried to contact you to ask you to attend x meeting, when you didn’t turn up your benefits were withdrawn.. You will have to start a new claim’
*(comment) I still recieve letters from them even though I’ve been in the support group for over a year. Stressed me out as they kept threatening sanctions if i didnt go.Even though my Dad called them to explain & ask them to stop they wont.
*(comment) According to the dwp if you are in the support group A4E cant do anything. They told me to ignore their letters,which we have,& i still get my esa,& haven’t been sanctioned x
*(comment) My friend had same problem with A4e, job centre told him he was under no obligation with them so he told them to stick it!! They hassle you because they get paid!!
*(comment) I was at A4E yesterday the bloke as good as told me they pester people like hell because they (A4E) don’t get paid otherwise
*(comment) A4e hassled my brother literally to his death
From the Facebook page ‘Atos Miracles, 13th March 2013
I can see some of the search terms that have led people to this site but unfortunately I cannot see who has posted them. Unfortunate, because many of these people need immediate help.
Here’s a selection from the last 7 days. The site recorded 106 known search terms including:
* Just had back surgery and have to attend WRAG group
* how can you live when benefits are taken away due to a sanction
* i’m at my wits end
* why am I waiting so long to get my personal independence payment
* atos stopped me working but 5 years later say Im fit to work, can i sue them for loss of earnings
* doctor from ATOS said that I could do things that i couldnt
* what happens if atos healthcare cancel the appointment
* greater manchester starving
* decision delays dwp
* my disability benefits have been cut off how can I appeal
* PIP delays
* how long to wait for a PIP decision
* victimised by employer for being put into the WRAG group
* WRAG advisor ignoring my sick note
* no money left job center
* son missed JSA appointment how long do they stop the money for
* depression and the DWP
* made claim for PIP 23 weeks ago
Argotina1, 26th November 2016
Nearly 550,000 people currently considered too sick to work face losing financial support if radical changes go ahead
The fate of nearly 550,000 benefit claimants currently deemed unfit for work due to serious illnesses such as cancer is in the balance as it emerged that Iain Duncan Smith is planning a radical change to the welfare system.
The work and pensions secretary is pushing to scrap a part of the benefits system that helps sufferers of recent illnesses get back into employment. These individuals are covered by the term “work-related activity group” (WRAG) and are regarded as being capable of work in the future. They are paid benefits if they carry out training or practice interviews.
However, the Observer understands that Duncan Smith wants to disband the group, currently made up of 546,770 people. Such a move would require an overhaul of the whole benefits system, say experts. The cabinet minister is said to be concerned that only half of claimants in WRAG are coming off benefit within three years, and that hundreds of millions of pounds are being tied up in administration of the benefit, including the work capability assessments and appeals process.
Anne Begg MP, the Labour chairwoman of the cross-party work and pensions select committee, said her fear was that the vulnerable people in that group would be forced to join the dole queue and be at the mercy of the sanction system, under which claimants lose benefits if they do not attend enough interviews or make efforts to find a job.
She said: “My concern is that, if he gets rid of the WRAG group and says all these people are fit to work, that will turn them into job support allowance claimants. Then we have all these people who they are wasting money on trying to get into work, who are realistically never going to get into work and whose condition will be made worse. I have two constituents who are psychiatric nurses who have just been telling me about the damage done to people who are ill and incapable and forced to attend job centres.”
Begg said she would raise the issue with the minister for disabled people, Mike Penning, when he is due to come before the committee on 11 December.
Stephen Timms, a former Labour welfare reform minister and now shadow minister for employment, said scrapping the WRAG would require “a radical change” to the system on top of a whole series of reforms being pursued by the government.
A Whitehall source said Duncan Smith was championing the major change ahead of the impending publication of the national disability employment strategy. He added that the change was being opposed by the new employment minister, Esther McVey, although a source close to the minister insisted that “any talk of a rift between the minister and the secretary of state is complete nonsense”.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We’re continually looking to improve the system and all sorts of ideas are considered, some of which are acted upon and some of which are not. Ministers are working together closely and we will do everything we can to support this group of people to move off benefits and into work.”…………………………………………
Recent benefit changes have included:
■ Incapacity benefit replaced by employment support allowance, requiring claimants to attend a medical examination by private firm Atos.
■ Annual benefit rises limited to 1%, below the rate of inflation.
■ A one-year limit put on claims through the work-related activity group (WRAG), under which they do not need to apply for employment to continue to receive payments.
■ Duncan Smith tried to abolish the independent living fund, which allows nearly 20,000 severely disabled people to stay in their communities, but the court of appeal overturned his decision.
■ The bedroom tax penalises people with “spare rooms”, even if those rooms accommodate carers or equipment for disabled child.
From ‘The Guardian’, 23rd November 2013. Read the full article here: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/nov/23/iain-duncan-smith-wrag-benefit-cuts
I’ve not been posting up personal accounts recently, there’s so much documented news to cover. And so many individual stories of hardship and penury being caused by the cumulative effects of Ian Duncan Smith’s welfare ‘reforms’ on the disabled and vulnerable. This short account from the facebook page ‘disability and benefits support, don’t go alone’ is just one of tens of thousands of desperate cases.
“Am fuming!!! 9 MONTHS & still no reply from DWP regarding me asking for a reconsideration to be moved from WRAG to support group. I phoned them AGAIN today to be told there’s still no progress!!! I’m too scared to leave the house on my own as keep blacking out (last week an ambulance was called). My psychiatrist has put me on a 3rd antidepressant & my legs are getting worse & every 14 days I have to attend my 1:1 session else my ESA will be sanctioned. I have my next 1:1 on Monday morning & have to go alone as my daughter who normally is with me all the time has been forced to do work experience else they’ll sanction her JSA. I’m at my wits end, feel like crying, I don’t know what to do. This is making me even more depressed than I already am which in turn flares up my fibro!! So sorry for the long post”