Rob Holland, Parliamentary Manager at the learning disability charity Mencap said:

Today’s debate heard MPs from all parties express their deep concerns around the Government’s proposed cut to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the equivalent in Universal Credit. This adds to opposition already expressed from disabled people, the House of Lords, charities, and the public of which just 6% think cuts to welfare will make the UK a better place for disabled people to live. The opposition across society to this cut is overwhelming.”

People with a learning disability will be disappointed to see the Government continue to try and force this cut through despite their promise to protect disability benefits. Just 6% of people with a learning disability are in employment; however the Government are still yet to provide any robust evidence that cutting ESA WRAG will improve this number. In fact the evidence available shows it will push disabled people further away from the job market, and closer to poverty.

With MPs from all parties now publically expressing concern around the damaging effects of this cut we urge the Government to halt this cut, and consider how cutting ESA WRAG will directly undermine their desire to get more disabled people into work.

The Government has proposed a cut of £30-a-week for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA. 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.

The Government has however suggested that sick and disabled people who get this benefit are being disincentivised from finding work because of the £30-a-week more they get compared to those on Job Seeker’s Allowance. However the Disability Benefits Consortium, of which Mencap is a co-chair strongly disputes this claim and a recent survey in October of over 500 disabled people found this to be completely false.

  • Almost half (45%) of respondents say that the cut would probably meanthey would return to work later
  • Just 1% said the cut would motivate them to get a job sooner
  • Almost 7 in 10 (69%) say cuts to ESA willcause their health to suffer
  • More than a quarter (28%) say they sometimescan’t afford to eat on the current amount they receive from ESA
  • 40% have becomemore isolated and less able to see friends or family after their ESA was withdrawn or reduced.

This warning comes one month after a Review was published by 3 Peers in the House of Lords (Baroness Meacher, Baroness Grey-Thompson and Lord Low) which found “no evidence to suggest that disabled people can be incentivised into work by cutting their benefits”.

A general public poll by Populus for Mencap of over 2,000 UK adults revealed that:

  • 71%of people think cuts to welfare willmake the UK a worse place for disabled people to live.
  • Just 6%thought the Welfare Reform and Work Bill would make the UK a better place for disabled people.

-ENDS-

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact the Mencap press office on 020 7696 5414 or media@mencap.org.uk

Notes to editors

Populus survey

Mencap commissioned a poll by Populus who interviewed a random sample of 2,099 UK adults 18+ from its online panel between December 11th and December 13th 2015. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at www.populus.co.uk