Proposed benefit changes ‘insulting’, says Mind
According to the BBC, the Government is considering cutting the rate of benefit paid to people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
In response to today’s BBC reporting, Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind said:
"If these proposals go ahead, they would cause significant additional pain for vulnerable people, with very limited gain. It is insulting to suggest that people supported by ESA because they are living with illness or disability would be more likely to return to work if their benefits were cut. We know that most people with mental health problems want to work but face significant barriers as a result of the impact of their condition and the stigma and discrimination they often face from employers."
"The Government has failed to offer this group appropriate support to move towards work, with only 8 per cent of people with mental health problems on the Work Programme – the Government’s flagship back-to-work scheme – being helped into a job. We’ve proposed ways to improve this support which would focus on fixing this broken system, rather than looking to blame ill and disabled by cutting their financial support."
"People in the WRAG receive just over £5000 a year, which is a very small income to survive on. The proposed cut would mean they would lose over £1500 of this, making life even more difficult for people and causing added distress. The proposed reduced rate (£73 a week) is designed for people on Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA), which is a short-term benefit for people who are between jobs and not affected by illness or disability like those on ESA. Almost 60 per cent of people on JSA move off the benefit within six months, while almost 60 per cent of people in the WRAG need this support for over two years. It would be totally inappropriate and irresponsible to cut support to people in the WRAG in this way and would do nothing to help them move into work."
ESA is paid to people who cannot currently work because of illness or disability. People in the WRAG are expected to engage with 'work related activity' such as attending CV writing courses in order to prepare for a return to work. They are not considered ready to apply for jobs.
There are around 500,000 people in the WRAG, and nearly half of this group are claiming primarily because of mental health problems.
 Calculated from two Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) tabulation tools: Job Outcomes and Attachments
 Durations spent on JSA and ESA calculated from Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) tabulation tool and Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures