ESA story so far
CARERWATCH ARE FIGHTING TO RESTORE UNCONDITIONAL BENEFITS TO ALL PEOPLE WITH SEVERE AND ENDURING ILLNESS – SOME WITH ONLY MONTHS TO LIVE. IN PARTICULAR CARERWATCH WANT THE THREAT OF SANCTIONS AND CONDITIONALITY under ESA REMOVED FROM PEOPLE WITH SEVERE AND ENDURING MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES. THIS CAN BE ACHIEVED SIMPLY BY PLACING THEM IN THE SUPPORT GROUP.
CarerWatch current campaign
previous campaigning on CarerWatch
ESA – the story so far
Over the last few years the Labour government supported by the Conservatives have been introducing Welfare Reform Bills. They are now all passed and ready to roll out. The idea is to help every one off benefits and in to work.
Carerwatch is concerned for people who are sick or have a disability and who before would have claimed Invalidity Benefit. They will now claim Employment Support Allowance – ESA. So far only new applicants have been put on ESA but starting now all existing IB claimants will be called in and examined and transferred.
When you are assessed for ESA one of three things can happen. You can be deemed immediately fit for work and put on Job Seekers Allowance. The plan is to halve the ESA claimants by putting half the existing claimants on JSA.
If you are assessed as having limited capability for work you will be put on ESA but the idea is that you get motivated and retrained and get back to work. This is a wonderful aspiration and all help should be offered but it is not necessarily realistic. The government are trying to shoe horn all sick and disabled people in to the model of fit people – I’m ill now but will get better. The LibDems have a much better model called Partial Capability Benefit which accepts that a person may be sick or disabled indefinitely and will support them in and out of full or part time work without loss of benefit. This takes the stress and fear out of having a go at working and having to give up again.
And that is the main problem with ESA. The stress and fear. People with severe and enduring illness or disability need the community to help them stay as well as they can. This is how they best achieve their goals. Stress and fear can make them less well. This is particularly relevant for severe mental illness like schizophrenia and bi-polar.
If you are put on ESA you will be called in regularly and exhorted to go back to work. You will be offered lots of help which is good but you will also be subject to sanctions of loss of benefit for non compliance which is a threat. For mental illness any non compliance may always be due to illness and so sanctions can never be fair. CarerWatch think this treatment for people with serious and enduring illness is inhumane and unacceptable.
There is a third option – being allocated to the ‘support’ group. Professor Gregg who designed ESA tells us that you can get all the back to work help from there. The good thing about the ‘support ‘ group is that there are no threats and sanctions and you can make your own choices and proceed at your own pace. The ‘support’ group was designed for the seriously ill but the assessment procedures (which aren’t conducted by doctors but by a private company called Atos) have been set so that almost no sick person will qualify for the ‘support’ group.
Our campaign is aimed at changing this and allowing all people with a diagnosis of a serious and enduring illness or disability in to the ‘support’ group and giving them back the dignity of making their own decisions and of controlling their own lives.
If you want to help with this campaign please come and join us in the CarerWatch discussion group.