Employment Support Allowance – the 2 groups are flawed

copy of letter sent to the Guardian

With regards the article by Amelia Gentleman about Labour’s call for review of sickness benefits assessment. At CarerWatch, this is something we have fought for since 2008 under the last government, and we still fight to this day.

Initially we concentrated on issues surrounding mental health, as that is where our members were informing us the problems arose. However, during the last 4 years we have witnessed a huge increase in problems, that cuts across most disabilities/serious ill health.

The fact remains that no amount of tweaking the descriptors of the Work Capability Assessment will ever make it fit for purpose whilst the 2 groups, Work Related Activity group ( WRAG)  and Support group remain as they are.

The WRAG is a harsh group involving threats, sanctions and time limits. It is not a safe place to help disabled people deal with the enormous barriers they face in finding and keeping work. It is the coercive nature of the WRAG that is causing the fear and causing the problems. Paul Farmer knew this when he stood down.

February 2009 we used an article from your newspaper to make an appeal to Ed Balls to speak up when James Purnell was overseeing Welfare Reform.

The truth about the harsh realities of reforms were plain to see even then.

Purnell was wrong re ESA in 2008/9, so is Iain Duncan Smith today. His vision of a new welfare system is dangerous. It is an experiment played out on people with real lives, not statistics on a piece of paper. The speed with which he is pushing changes to welfare through is alarming. As is his attempt to bring forth the new Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment, when so many issues still need addressing regarding ESA.

We are in the middle of a crisis as all benefits are being changed around us. Being done under the guise of ‘reform’, it is really cuts, falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.

We welcome Labours call for a review. However, they must not stop there but go back to the drawing board and start with the 2 groups of ESA, which are flawed.

There is no time for further mistakes to be made. Welfare reform will also have a massive impact on social care, and possibly limit what the new Care and Support Bill can achieve.

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