Today, MPs in the Commons voted to overturn House of Lords amendments to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which would have protected the amount paid to people supported by disability benefits.
This means that, from April 2017, many people who need support from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will receive £30 less a week than current claimants. The changes will affect people placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) because they are currently unable to work due to their health or disability.
Responding to this vote, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
"We are extremely disappointed to hear that MPs have voted to cut the financial support available to people who cannot work because of illness or disability. Reducing the amount provided will make people’s lives even more difficult and will do nothing to help them return to work, especially given that there is a relationship between financial difficulties and experience of mental health problems.
“Implying that ill and disabled people will be motivated into work if their benefits are cut is misguided and insulting. Misguided for failing to take into account the many reasons someone with a mental health problem might struggle to find or stay in employment – such as the impact a mental health problem can have on them or their ability to work, lack of personalised support, problems accessing services, waiting times for talking therapies, side effects of medication, and the attitudes and flexibility of employers. Insulting because it’s based on the assumption that people with mental health problems are deliberately failing to find work because they prefer to stay on benefits, which simply isn’t the case.
“The vast majority of people with mental health problems would like to work and the Government has acknowledged the high ‘want to work’ rate of people with mental health problems, yet the sanctions and cuts coming in imply the opposite. We’ve already seen how many people supported by ESA are being pushed into activities that are often generic, under the threat of benefit cuts, and don’t take into account their barriers to work, skills or ambitions. We need a supportive benefits system that works with people, not against them. One that offers truly personalised support delivered by people with expertise in mental health.”