Ahead of next week’s Budget, leading disability organisations have joined forces in an 11th hour call for the Government to reconsider planned cuts to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of the disability benefit Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which will see new claimants lose out on £30-a-week, £1500 a year

The Government claims this cut will ‘incentivise’ disabled people to get in to work, despite a recent Work and Pensions Select Committee report highlighting that evidence towards this is ‘ambiguous at best’. Charities argue that instead of halving the disability employment gap, the cuts will directly undermine this aim pushing disabled people closer to or into poverty, with a survey of over 500 disabled people finding:

  • Almost 7 in 10 (69%) say cuts to ESA will cause their health to suffer
  • More than a quarter (28%) say they sometimes can’t afford to eat on the current amount they receive from ESA
  • Almost half (45%) of respondents say that the cut would probably mean they would return to work later
  • Just 1% said the cut would motivate them to get a job sooner

Rossanna Trudgian, Head of Campaigns at learning disability charity Mencap said:

The Government’s refusal to rethink the cuts to the benefits of disabled people has caused deep unease amongst disabled people as well as MPs from all parties. Introducing a cut of £30 a week to disabled people, many of whom are already living in poverty, without providing any robust evidence that this will incentivise people in to work. It will simply make life harder for sick and disabled people and directly contradicts the Government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap.

Living with a disability often means a higher cost of living and being unemployed, leaving many relying heavily on the already restricted amount of money the Government provides. Disabled people are already struggling and risk being pushed further from work, their health suffering and being isolated from their communities. travel. We need the Government to recognise how damaging these cuts will be and stop them before their damaging effects are felt.

Open letter

Dear Prime Minister,

We urge the Government to reconsider the £30-a-week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit facing sick and disabled people. The cut has caused deep concern among the sector and unease among MPs from all parties and we remain united as a sector in our opposition.

The cut to new claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group of ESA and within Universal Credit (UC) from 1st April 2017 will affect many people found currently ‘unfit for work’ but will also impact many disabled people in work and on low wages due to the way UC works.

Almost 70% of sick and disabled people surveyed said this cut would cause their health to suffer and just under half said they would probably not be able to return to work as quickly, therefore undermining the Government’s attempts to halve the disability employment gap - something we wholeheartedly support.

At a time when 1 in 3 households with a disabled member are living in poverty, £30 a week can be a huge loss in income. We therefore urge the Government to halt this cut immediately.

Signed:

Action on Hearing Loss

AdviceUK

Arthritis Research UK

Baroness Campbell Chair Independent Living Strategy Group

British Lung Foundation 

Carers UK

Deafblind UK 

Disability Agenda Scotland

Disability Rights UK

Epilepsy Action

Guide Dogs

Inclusion London

Leonard Cheshire Disability

Mind

Motor Neurone Disease Association

MS Society

National Autistic Society

Rethink

Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance of grassroots Deaf and Disabled people’s organisations

RNIB

Royal Mencap Society

SAMH

Scope

Sense

Sir Bert Massie CBE, DL

Spartacus Network

United Response

 

 

-ENDS-

For further information, please contact the Mencap press office on 020 7696 5414 or media@mencap.org.uk or for out of hours 07770 656 659.

DBC Survey of disabled people

The Disability Benefits Consortium surveyed over 500 people aged 18 plus between August 3rd and 15th October across the UK. The surveys were conducted across the country and all relevant responses can be found below:

Q: The Government are proposing to cut support for people in the WRAG by around £30 per week. If this was to apply to you, what do you think the impact would be? Please note, this will only affect people who apply for ESA from April 2017 onwards.

Percentage

Sample

It would make no difference at all

6%

27

I would struggle to pay my bills

69%

292

I would struggle to maintain my independence

70%

297

I think my health would get worse

69%

291

It would motivate me to get a job sooner

1%

6

It would make it harder for me to recover and probably mean I return to work later

45%

190

Other (please explain)

21%

 

88

Total

 

422

 

Q: Do you feel that the amount of ESA you receive is/was enough to live on?

 

Percentage

Sample

Yes

29%

134

No

57%

265

Not sure/don't know

15%

68

Total

 

467

 

Q:  If you don't feel the money is enough, what impact has this had on your financial situation?

 

Percentage

Sample

I have been unable to pay bills

43%

129

I have missed rent payments

12%

36

I have missed mortgage payments

9%

26

I couldn’t afford to eat

28%

85

I haven't been able to travel to medical appointments

19%

56

I struggled to stay healthy

52%

157

I’ve been trapped in my house as I haven’t been able to afford a taxi 

36.%

110

I haven't been able to heat my home

38%

114

Other (please explain)

40.5%

113

Total

 

303

 

Q:  If you have had your ESA withdrawn or reduced, what has been the impact on your life? (please tick all that apply)

 

Percentage

Sample

I can't afford to pay my bills

30%

38

I can't afford my weekly food shop

24%

31

I'm now in debt

 

22%

28

I’ve had to borrow from my friends and family

28%

35

I’ve had to borrow from a payday lender

6%

7

I am more isolated and less able to see friends and family

40%

49

I miss medical appointments because I cannot afford to travel to them

14%

18

It has negatively impacted my relationship with my family/spouse/partner

28%

35

It has caused me severe anxiety

48%

61

It has made my health condition worse

42%

53

It has had little impact

2%

3

The amount I receive has not changed

26%

33

Other (please explain)

22%

26

Total

127

About Mencap

There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email help@mencap.org.uk

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.

Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.

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