Research from Mencap, co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), has also revealed the extent to which the public are against the Government’s cuts to welfare and the effect this will have on disabled people. 

The general public poll by Populus 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.

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 DBC 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 mean they 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  • 40% have becomemore isolated and less able to see friends or family after their ESA was withdrawn or reduced.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”.

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

Not only are disabled people telling us loud and clear that this cut to ESA will make their lives harder, with both their health and chances of returning to work being harmed, but we also see how the general public are deeply concerned by these cuts to disability benefits. The fact that just 6% of people believe the Welfare Reform and Work Bill will make the UK a better place for disabled people shows the urgent need for the Government to rethink their proposed cuts.

Disabled people have told us about the vital role played by benefits like ESA and how taking this support away would leave them isolated, closer to poverty and further from work. This should make the government listen, especially when this cut seriously undermines their plans to halve the employment gap experienced by disabled people.

Ahead of this key vote in the House of Lords, we ask Peers to consider what disabled people have said about how this will affect them, and urge the government to rethink this damaging cut in support for disabled people.

Sam Jefferies, who met with their local MP, and who has a learning disability, and is on ESA WRAG said:

I am really worried about benefits cuts.  Only 6% of people with a learning disability are currently in employment. This number scares me as I, like a lot of people with a learning disability, really want to get a job; however, it is really hard to get work if you have a learning disability.  Benefits are important to me because the money helps me to stay independent, if it was cut I’m worried that I’d become isolated.

Open Letter to Iain Duncan Smith:

Dear Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,

We believe the Government’s proposed cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will undermine its commitment to halve the disability employment gap, and push sick and disabled people further away from work and closer to poverty.

The Government committed to protecting disability benefits, but instead is pushing through a cut of £30 a week to new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA. These are sick and disabled people who have been found currently unable to work. The Government says this £30 disincentivises sick and disabled people from finding work, but it has so far offered no evidence for this claim. In fact a recent independent Review showed the opposite is true: that this cut will make it harder for disabled people to find work.

Almost 70% of sick and disabled people we surveyed say this cut to ESA would cause their health to suffer and just under half said they would not be able to return to work so quickly. We call on the Government to listen to the damaging effect this will have on the lives of sick and disabled people and immediately halt this cut.

Signed by:

  1. Lord Low of Dalston CBE
  2. Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE
  3. Baroness Meacher
  4. Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive of Mencap
  5. Steve Ford, Chief Executive of Parkinson's UK
  6. Michelle Mitchell OBE, Chief Executive of the MS Society
  7. Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE, Chief Executive of RNIB
  8. Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society
  9. Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness
  10. Paul Farmer CBE, Chief Executive of Mind
  11. Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support
  12. Liz Sayce, Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK
  13. Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK
  14. Gillian Morbey OBE, Chief Executive of Sense
  15. Richard Leaman CB OBE, Chief Executive of Guide Dogs
  16. Paul Breckell, Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss
  17. Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group
  18. Amanda Batten, Chief Executive of Contact a Family
  19. Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of National AIDS Trust
  20. Jackie Morton, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust
  21. Carol Boys, Chief Executive of Down’s Syndrome Association
  22. Jeff Skipp, Chief Executive of Deafblind UK
  23. Sonya Chowdhury, Chief Executive of Action for M.E.
  24. Dr Adrian James, Registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists
  25. Philip Lee, Chief Executive of Epilepsy Action
  26. David Barker, Chief Executive of Crohn's & Colitis UK
  27. Debbie Cook, Chief Executive of National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society
  28. Stephen Fisher, Chair of RSI Action
  29. Paul Lenihan MBE, Chief Executive of Action Duchenne
  30. Dave Webber, Chief Executive of Livability
  31. Chris Simmonds, Chief Executive of Revitalise
  32. Tanya Marlow, Founder of Compassionate Britain
  33. Peter Corbett, Chief Executive of Thomas Pocklington Trust
  34. Theresa Shearer, Chief Executive of ENABLE Scotland
  35. Teresa Catto-Smith, Founder of Autism in Scotland
  36. Billy Watson, Chief Executive of Scottish Association for Mental Health
  37. Ian Welsh, Chief Executive of Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland


For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact the Mencap press office on 020 7696 5414 or

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