• Almost 7 in 10 (69%) disabled people surveyed say cuts to ESA will cause their health to suffer
  • Almost half (45%) of respondents say that the cut would probably mean they return to work later
  • A third (28%) surveyed say they can’t afford to eat on the current amount they receive from ESA
  • 40% of respondents have become more isolated and less able to see friends or family after their ESA was withdrawn or reduced.

In a recent survey of over 500 disabled people almost 7 in 10 (69%) said cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) would cause their health to suffer, with almost half (45%) saying it would mean they would probably return to work later according to research released today by a coalition of over 60 national disability charities, known as the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) including Mencap, MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Arthritis Research UK and RNIB.

The Government has proposed a cut of around £30 a week to new claimants in the ESA Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) – cutting these individuals’ payments by about a third, from April 2017. ESA WRAG is specifically there to provide support for those people who are assessed as being unfit for work but able to undertake training or other activities to move towards work, to enable them to return to work when and if they are well or more ready for the workplace.

Currently there are almost half a million sick and disabled people receiving this benefit. The extra money individuals receive is in recognition that they are likely to be unemployed for a longer period of time than those receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The Government has suggested that people who get this benefit are being disincentivised from finding work because of the higher rate this group gets, and that cutting the benefit by £30 a week – to the same rate as Jobseeker’s Allowance – will encourage them to find work [1]. The Disability Benefits Consortium strongly disputes the Government’s claim.  The evidence shows that instead, the cut will make it less likely individuals will return to work.

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

“These findings confirm the vital role support from benefits like ESA plays in the lives of disabled people, and shows how taking this support away would leave people isolated from their communities, closer to poverty, further from work and unable to live fulfilling lives.

“Crucially the survey shows that by reducing this benefit by £30 a week disabled people will be pushed further away from employment, contradicting the Government’s desire to halve the disability employment gap and get more disabled people into work.”

“We urge the Government to immediately reassess the impact of benefits cuts on disabled people and their families. Benefits are being taken away, cut or frozen without adequate consideration of their effects on the people they exist to support. Coupled with cuts to social care, these benefit reductions risk creating a crisis for disabled people in the UK, forcing them into the corners of society and closer to poverty.”

Derek Bunker was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD. He receives ESA WRAG and is concerned new claimants receiving less than £30 in would struggle to make ends meet. He said:

“I couldn’t live on that, I can barely afford to live on £101 a week at the moment. I’d worry about not being able to go out. I’d worry I would slip through the net and not be a productive member of the community.

“I can barely afford to pay for electricity and gas now. I can’t begin to imagine how people would look for work effectively with such a cut”

The group of charities – known collectively as the DisabilityBenefits Consortium (DBC) - surveyed over 500 people from August 3 to October 15 2015. The research reveals the damaging impact a proposed cut of £30 a week to ESA. The key findings include:

When asked what the likely impact would be if their ESA were to be cut by £30 per week:

  • 45% say they would probably return to work later
  • 69% think their health would get worse
  • 69% would struggle to pay their bills
  • 70% would struggle to maintain their independence.

Indeed, over half (57%) of people surveyed said the amount of ESA they currently receive is not enough to live on. As a consequence:

  • almost a third (28%) couldn’t afford to eat
  • over a third (36%) have been trapped in their house as they couldn’t afford a taxi
  • over a third (38%) have been unable to heat their home (38%)
  • 52% have struggled to stay healthy.

Further to this, of those who had already had their ESA withdrawn or reduced under the existing rules:

  • 24% could no longer afford their weekly food shop
  • 22% are in debt
  • 40% have become more isolated and less able to see friends and family.


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

[1] Department for Work and Pensions, Welfare Reform and Work Bill: Impact Assessment to remove the ESA Work-Related Activity Component and the UC Limited Capability for Work Element for new claims, July 2015 (PDF).

DBC Survey

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.

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: disabilitybenefitsconsortium.wordpress.com/.

About Mencap

There are 1.5 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.

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact the Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email helpline@mencap.org.uk.