A number of constituents have contacted me about the reforms to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and as such I thought it would be helpful if I explained the background to these reforms and why I support them.
ESA is available to people who are ill or disabled and provides financial support if you are unable to work and personalised help for people who can work.
Within this there are two Groups of ESA claimants. The Support Group and The Work-related Activity Group (WRAG). The Support Group is for claimants who have limited capacity to carry out work-related activity. The Work-Related Activity Group is for people who have been determined as able to carry out work-related activity and is to assist them to prepare for a return to employment.
From April 2017, new claimants of ESA who are placed in the WRAG group will receive the same benefit as JSA claimants. People who already receive ESA in both the Support and WRAG groups will continue to receive the existing rates and will not be affected.
The existing system has not been working well as it offers very few options for people who want to work, but who need the extra support to do this. Currently, the system seems to say, you are either too sick to work, or you can work, in my mind this does not seem right.
As it stands, 1 in 5 JSA claimants move off benefits every month, however this is true of just 1 in 100 of ESA WRAG claimants. I believe those with health conditions and disabilities deserve better than this. As such, by reducing the payments made to new claimants in the ESA WRAG group it will enable the Government to introduce a significant increase in the support for those in the WRAG group.
The new funding will be worth £60 million in 2017/18 and will rise to £100 million in 2020/21. This will be used to provide additional practical support to help these people return to work with the decisions on how this money is spent influenced by a Taskforce of disability charities, disabled people’s user-led organisations, employers, think tanks, provider representatives and local authorities.
This new package of support will also allow those in the ESA WRAG Group the option to undertake up to 16 hours part-time paid work per week while still receiving the ESA WRAG Benefit.