MPs from all parties have publically expressed opposition to the £30-a-week cut that will affect new claimants from April 2017.

Ahead of a debate in the House of Commons on cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit, 70 charities – all members of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) – have signed an open letter to the Government, warning of the devastating effects the cuts would have on people with a disability and urging MPs to take this debate as an opportunity to re-assess the cuts.

The charities argue that the cuts to the Work Related Activity Group of ESA and the equivalent in Universal Credit will undermine the Government’s commitment to halving the disability employment gap, which was outlined in the recent Green Paper on Work and Health.

The Government has however suggested that sick and disabled people who get this benefit are not being incentivised to find work because of the £30-a-week more they get compared to those on Job Seeker’s Allowance.

However, the DBC strongly disputes this claim and a survey of over 500 disabled people found this to be completely false:

  • 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.

Thursdays debate on reductions to ESA and Universal Credit, has been called by the Backbench Business Committee following a representation from SNP MP Neil Gray.

Both SNP and Conservative MP’s have challenged the legislation enforcing the cuts which became law in March this year; with Thursday’s debate offering a rare second chance to re-assess the cuts before they are implemented.

Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive of Mencap which co-chairs the Disability Benefits Consortium, said:

People with a learning disability are deeply concerned about the Government’s plan to push through further cuts to their benefits from April 2017; it’s encouraging to see these concerns shared by MPs across all parties – it’s clear urgent action is needed.

The Government claims that cutting disabled people’s benefits will incentivise them to find work, yet the opposite is true. The cuts to Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit will do nothing but make life harder for disabled people who are already seeing support drastically reduced by a collapsing social care system. At a time when 1 in 3 families with a disabled person live below the poverty line, a £30-a-week cut is a devastating blow.

The Government has promised that those in the Work Related Activity Group from April 2017 (those affected by the cut), will have more support to help them move towards work; however, there is very little on this in the recent Green Paper.

Furthermore due to the way that Universal Credit works people with a learning disability in work and on low wages will also be hit. Combined, these cuts will make it harder for people to look for work while denying them much needed support to stay in work.

Second chances come rarely in politics, we urge the Government to consider its commitment to protecting disabled people by reversing this cut and instead focus on a real programme of support that will help disabled people move closer to employment.

Open letter to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, published here:

Dear Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,

With today’s debate MPs have been given a rare second chance to speak out against £30 a week being taken away from sick and disabled people. The £30-a-week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit has caused deep unease amongst MPs from all parties. We believe this cut will undermine the Government’s welcome commitment to halve the disability employment gap set out in the Green Paper published just last month.

The Government recently committed to protecting disabled people’s benefits from further cuts, but have decided to continue with this damaging cut to new claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA and within Universal Credit (UC). From April 2017 this cut will affect many people found currently ‘unfit for work’ but will also affect many disabled people in work and on low wages under UC.

The Government promised further support would be given to disabled people in the WRAG to find work, however the recent Green Paper offers little detail as to where this would come from or how it will mitigate the effects of the cut.

Almost 70% of sick and disabled people we surveyed say 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. We urge MPs from all parties to act –at a time when 1 in 3 households with a disabled member are living in poverty – and halt this cut immediately.

Signed:

  1. Action for Blind People
  2. Action Duchenne
  3. Action for M.E.
  4. Action on Hearing Loss
  5. Advice UK
  6. Advocard
  7. Age UK
  8. Ambitious about Autism
  9. Arthritis Care
  10. Arthritis Research UK
  11. Aspire
  12. British Lung Foundation
  13. Capability Scotland
  14. Carers UK
  15. Child Poverty Action Group
  16. Citizens Advice
  17. CLIC Sargent
  18. Contact a Family
  19. Council for Disabled Children
  20. Crohn’s and Colitis UK
  21. Cystic Fibrosis Trust
  22. Deafblind UK
  23. Dimensions UK
  24. Disability Agenda Scotland
  25. Disability Rights UK
  26. Down’s Syndrome Association
  27. ENABLE Scotland
  28. Epilepsy Society
  29. Epilepsy Action
  30. Equalities National Council
  31. Guide Dogs
  32. Haemophilia Society
  33. Hafal
  34. Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE)
  35. Inclusion London
  36. LASA
  37. Leonard Cheshire Disability
  38. Livability
  39. Mind
  40. Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association
  41. MS Society
  42. Muscular Dystrophy UK
  43. Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) Trust
  44. Myeloma UK
  45. National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society
  46. National AIDS Trust
  47. National Autistic Society (NAS)
  48. National Children’s Bureau
  49. National Deaf Children’s Society
  50. National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
  51. Niamh
  52. Papworth Trust
  53. Parkinson’s UK
  54. Rethink Mental Illness
  55. Royal British Legion
  56. Royal College of Psychiatrists
  57. Royal Mencap Society
  58. Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
  59. RSI Action
  60. Scope
  61. Scottish Association for Mental Health
  62. Spina bifida Hydrocephalus Information Networking Equality (SHINE)
  63. Sense
  64. Sense Scotland
  65. St Joseph’s Hospice
  66. The Stroke Association
  67. Sue Ryder
  68. Terrence Higgins Trust
  69. Thomas Pocklington Trust
  70. Together For Short Lives
  71. Transport for All
  72. TUC
  73. Vitalise
  74. Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

-ENDS-

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

Notes to editors

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 the Disability Benefits Consortium

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) comprises more than 60 national organisations that represent the needs of people who rely on disability benefits.

The DBC is committed to achieving a benefits system that:

  • is built on the rights of disabled people
  • is informed by the needs and experiences of all disabled people
  • is fair in its design and administration
  • reflects the reality of the challenges faced by disabled people seeking work
  • contributes towards tackling disability poverty and interacts with other government measures to achieve this.

More information on the Disability Benefits Consortium can be found here: https://disabilitybenefitsconsortium.wordpress.com/

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’.