Reported government proposals to cut sickness benefit Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) “would leave many people with disabilities struggling to make ends meet,” according to mental health charity Mind.
The BBC has reported that the government is considering cutting ESA for new claimants, judged to be capable of work with appropriate support, to just 50p more per week than job seekers allowance (JSA). Currently, ESA recipients get £28.75 per week more.
However, the Department for Work & Pensions has denied that the proposals are government policy.
About two million people claim ESA. To receive the benefit, claimants have to undergo a work capability assessment to determine whether they are eligible and at what level.
Under the proposals, ESA recipients in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) – individuals who have to prepare for employment – would receive just 50p more than the JSA rate, which for people aged 25 or over is £72.40 per week.
But if these proposals were to become policy, it would cause hardship for many people, according to Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind. “If these proposals go ahead it would leave many people with disabilities struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “People in the WRAG, over 40% of whom have mental health problems, face significant barriers to returning to work and will take much longer to do so than people on JSA. As such, it is right that they receive additional support to allow them to have a reasonable standard of life while preparing for work.
“Rather than looking to make reckless short-term savings, the Government should be focused on fixing a system that is failing people with mental health problems. The only responsible way to reduce the cost of ESA is to provide personalised and specialist support to people help them move closer to work. Current Government schemes are failing to do this and, in many cases, are causing stress and anxiety to people that is making their health worse and pushing them further from work.”