Open letter to Government on second chance to stop ESA cuts

Ahead of today’s debate in the House of Commons on cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit, over 70 members of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) signed an open letter (below) to the Government, warning of the devastating effects the cuts would have on people with a disability and urging MPs to take this debate as an opportunity to re-assess the cuts.

The DBC argues that cuts to the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA and the equivalent in Universal Credit will undermine the Government’s commitment to halving the disability employment gap, which was outlined in the recent Green Paper on Work and Health.

The Government has however suggested that people with disabilities and long-term health conditions who get this benefit are not being incentivised to find work because of the £30-a-week more they get compared to those on Job Seeker’s Allowance.

However, the DBC strongly disputes this claim and a survey of over 500 disabled people found this to be false:-

  • Almost 7 in 10 (69%) say cuts to ESA will cause their health to suffer
  • More than a quarter (28%) say they sometimes can’t afford to eat on the current amount they receive from ESA
  • Almost half (45%) of respondents say that the cut would probably mean they would return to work later
  • Just 1% said the cut would motivate them to get a job sooner.

The open letter reads as follows:

“Dear Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,

“With today’s debate MPs have been given a rare second chance to speak out against £30 a week being taken away from sick and disabled people. The £30-a-week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit has caused deep unease amongst MPs from all parties. We believe this cut will undermine the Government’s welcome commitment to halve the disability employment gap set out in the Green Paper published just last month.

“The Government recently committed to protecting disabled people’s benefits from further cuts, but have decided to continue with this damaging cut to new claimants in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA and within Universal Credit (UC). From April 2017 this cut will affect many people found currently ‘unfit for work’ but will also affect many disabled people in work and on low wages under UC.

“The Government promised further support would be given to disabled people in the WRAG to find work, however the recent Green Paper offers little detail as to where this would come from or how it will mitigate the effects of the cut.

“Almost 70% of sick and disabled people we surveyed say this cut would cause their health to suffer and just under half said they would probably not be able to return to work as quickly. We urge MPs from all parties to act – at a time when 1 in 3 households with a disabled member are living in poverty – and halt this cut immediately.”