Cuts to Employment and Support Allowance: More Cruelty from Coalition.
More cruelty from the Liberal-Conservative coalition.
The BBC says,
Ministers are considering drastically cutting the main Employment and Support Allowance sickness benefit, internal documents seen by the BBC suggest.
New claimants, judged to be capable of work with appropriate support, could be given just 50p more per week than people on job seekers allowance.
Current recipients get almost £30 per week more.
The Department for Work and Pensions said the ESA proposals were not government policy.
The papers reveal that the government has also been forced to hire extra staff to clear the backlog on the benefit.
Some 100 healthcare professionals are being hired to carry out fitness-for-work tests. The staff, who will be employed through the Pertemps agency, will help to reduce a backlog of more than 600,000 cases.
They will be in addition to any extra staff brought in when a new contractor is announced shortly to replace ATOS. The BBC understands that the American firm, Maximus, has been selected.
Leaked documents this summer showed that ministers considered ESA – formerly known as incapacity benefit – to be “one of the largest fiscal risks currently facing the government”.
They also revealed concerns about claimants moving off jobseekers allowance onto ESA.
Giving consideration to cutting the differential paid to ESA recipients in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) – individuals who have to prepare for employment – is a reflection of that concern.
They currently get £28.75 more per week but the documents show plans are being discussed to cut that to just 50p more than jobseekers allowance. People receiving JSA, who are aged 25 or over, currently get £72.40 per week.
Employment and Support Allowance is paid to approximately two million people. Claimants have to undergo a work capability assessment to determine whether they are eligible and at what level.
Labour MP Dame Anne Begg, who chairs the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, said she would support overhauling the delivery of ESA but “did not envisage” any reduction in the value of the benefit.
“That’s not reform, that is just saving money. I hope that is not something the government is going to come forward with.”
The Guardian reports.
Government ‘considered cuts to employment and support allowance’Internal documents seen by BBC suggest officials considered cutting ESA by as much as £30 so it is effectively worth the same as jobseeker’s allowance.The government is considering cutting the value of the main employment and support allowance (ESA) sickness benefit by as much as £30 so that it is effectively worth the same as jobseeker’s allowance, internal documents seen by the BBC suggest.
New claimants, judged to be capable of work with appropriate support, could be given just 50p more per week than people on jobseeker’s allowance (JSA).
The Department for Work and Pensions said the ESA proposals were not government policy, but that they reflected ministers’ search for a solution to the backlog of claims for ESA and its higher than forecast cost. George Osborne, the chancellor, has said he is seeking a £12bn cut in the welfare bill, and has so far identified a quarter of these cuts mainly through freezing the value of most benefits for two years.
The DWP has been struggling with ESA ever since it replaced incapacity benefit. The main contractor, Atos, quit the contract assessing claimants after a massive backlog built up and criticism grew of the way in which the medical assessments were made. The backlog is currently running at more than 600,000. It is thought an American firm, Maximus, has been selected to replace Atos.
Government officials will be looking at cutting the value of ESA, partly because of concern that JSA claimants are moving off JSA to claim the higher value ESA.
The government will be focusing on the differential paid to ESA recipients in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) – individuals who have to prepare for employment.
Those in the WRAG group currently get £28.75 more per week than people receiving JSA, who are aged 25 or over, who currently get £72.40 per week.
The ESA is paid to approximately 2 million people. Claimants have to undergo a work capability assessment to determine whether they are eligible and at what level.
It never ends does it?
Can they go any lower?