Over 50 national charities who form the Disability Benefits Consortium have jointly spoken out today to express deep concern over reports from the BBC over leaked government plans to scrap part of the UK's main sickness benefit, and abolish the Work Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance.

About two million people in the UK receive the Employment and Support Allowance, in some form. It is paid out to disabled or sick people who are unable to work or need help getting back to work.

The Disability Benefits Consortium is a coalition of charities and other organisations committed to working towards a fairer benefits system.

Rob Holland, Parliamentary Lead at Royal Mencap Society & Parliamentary Chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium said:

“Disabled people, their families and carers tell us they are extremely anxious about the Government's proposal to cut £12 billion from the welfare budget. They are worried where these cuts will fall and how deep they will be. 

“Media reports today of a leaked paper proposing to abolish the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance are deeply concerning. The WRAG benefit is specifically there to provide support for those disabled people who are assessed as being able to move towards work. 

“It is also misleading in its description of ESA as 'passive'.  In fact people on this benefit have to undertake a range of agreed activity and are subject to a controversial regime of sanctions which if not fulfilled result in them losing part or potentially all of their benefit. 

“Abolishing this benefit would contradict the Government's aim to halve the disability employment gap as set out in the Conservative manifesto. In addition cutting benefits to the bare minimum will prevent people seeking work effectively. 

“We are calling on the Government to ensure that next week's budget protects disabled people, their families and carers from further cuts. In addition more must be done to tackle the long term economic disadvantages disabled people face and support more disabled people into employment.” 

-ENDS-

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

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’.