Welfare Reform Bill update
Posted Thursday 2 February 2012
Despite the enormous campaigning efforts of people across the disability world, MPs yesterday voted to overturn the House of Lords' amendments to extend the time limit on contributory Employment & Support Allowance (cESA) to two years.
332 MPs voted in favour of keeping the time limit to one year, beating the 266 who voted against by 66 votes.
MPs also overturned six other amendments made by the Lords, reinstating plans to cap the amount of benefits a person can receive to £26,000 annually, and preventing young disabled people who have never worked from claiming cESA.
The Government argued that when combined, the Lords’ seven amendments would cost the state billions of pounds.
In a further blow, the Government then took the rare step of invoking “financial privilege” to prevent the Lords further challenging the MPs’ decision.
They argued that only Members of Parliament – not Peers – have the right to make decisions with such large financial implications. It is not yet clear whether this decision will be upheld.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
We are bitterly disappointed that the House of Commons has chosen to implement this arbitrary one year time limit.
The Government’s own figures clearly show that the vast majority of people on Employment and Support Allowance need the help to remain in place for more than a year.
Forcing someone with a mental health problem to look for work before he or she is well enough to do so risks seriously undermining their recovery, and could even make them more unwell.
This is a short-sighted move which could in the long run incur huge health and social care bill, and we urge the Government to reconsider.
We would like to thank the 121 people who took the time and effort to use Mind’s website to email their MP urging them to support the Lords’ amendments, as well as the 346 Mind supporters who tweeted MPs, too.
Mind will continue to fight for improvements to the welfare and benefits system, and to the Welfare Reform Bill in particular.