It has been revealed in the July Emergency Budget that, from April 2017, anyone making a claim for the disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) will receive a reduced level of benefit, equal to that of those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA).
Almost half of ESA claims are from people applying primarily because of a mental health problem. There are currently about a quarter of a million people with mental health problems in the ESA-WRAG.
Responding to this, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
"We are extremely disappointed to hear that the Government will be cutting the financial support available to people who cannot work because of illness or disability. Reducing the amount provided to those in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA from about £5000 to £3500 a year will make people’s lives even more difficult and will do nothing to help them return to work."
“People being supported by ESA receive a higher rate than those on JSA because they face additional barriers as a result of their illness or disability, and typically take longer to move into work. Almost 60 per cent of people on JSA move off the benefit within 6 months, while almost 60 per cent of people in the WRAG need this support for at least two years. It is unrealistic to expect people to survive on £73 a week for this length of time. We’re concerned that the impact of these changes will be felt by our overstretched NHS services, as these cuts hit individual’s mental health as well as their pockets."
“It is insulting and misguided to imply that ill and disabled people on ESA will be more likely to move into work if their benefits are cut. The vast majority of people with mental health problems want to work but face significant barriers as a result of the impact of their condition and the stigma they often face from employers."
“We welcome the decision not to cut other benefits, such as the Personal Independence Payment. We also look forward to seeing the details of the additional support to help ill and disabled people return to work, given that only 8 per cent of people with mental health problems on the Government’s flagship Work Programme move into employment. The Government should be focused on fixing this broken system, rather than effectively blaming ill and disabled people by cutting the support available to them.”
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