The Government proposed to cut ESA WRAG by £30 a week (a third) for new claimants from 2017. They claim that cutting disabled people’s benefits can incentivise them to find work, however have offered no evidence for this.

This comes days after over 30 charities signed an open letter to Iain Duncan Smith calling on him to halt the cut to ESA or risk pushing “sick and disabled people further away from work and closer to poverty.”

Rob Holland, Parliamentary Manager at Mencap and co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium

Disabled people will be hugely encouraged that Peers have listened to their concerns and voted against cutting the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The Government wants to get more disabled people into work, but as a sector we have warned that cutting ESA WRAG, and its equivalent payment in Universal Credit, will directly undermine that commitment whilst pushing disabled people further from work and closer to or into poverty.

This proposed cut together with the crisis in social care funding means disabled people are facing losses to critical support they need to make ends meet and to be included in society. The Government can no longer ignore the widespread opposition to this, which now also faces huge public opposition with just 6% of the people thinking welfare cuts will make the UK a better place for disabled people to live.

This vote by the Lords should add further evidence of the deep unease amongst disabled people and the wider public around cutting ESA WRAG and the equivalent in Universal Credit. We now urge the Government to take note of this, and halt this cut.

The WRAG component of ESA is specifically there to provide support for sick and disabled people who the Government has assessed as being unfit for work but able to undertake activities to help them move towards work. The cut would also apply in the Government’s new flagship benefit Universal Credit which disabled people will start being moved onto later this year.

A recent survey in October of over 500 disabled people found the Government’s claim, that ESA is too generous and doesn’t incentivise people to work, to have little foundation in the experience of disabled people who took part:

  • 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 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
  • 40% have become more isolated and less able to see friends or family after their ESA was withdrawn or reduced.

A general public poll commissioned by Mencap and run by Populus of over 2,000 adults revealed:

  • a third (33%) think the Government are not at all aware of the effect proposed reductions in welfare will have on the day-to-day lives of disabled people
  • just 6% thought the Welfare Reform and Work Bill would make the UKa better place for disabled people
  • 71%said cuts to welfare will make the UK a worse place for disabled people to live.

-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

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.

www.mencap.org.uk  

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