We understand that after the debacle that is welfare reform – a new government will want to take a very careful long term view as to how to get things right.
The long term solution will be more complicated than simply reforming the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The WCA has to test for something meaningful. The Employment Support Allowance (ESA) groups at the moment are meaningless. People in the Work Related Activity group (WRAG) can’t move to work.
The new government has to understand that sometimes impairment does actually impair and lead to extra costs to the employer. As a society we need to think about whether it is government or employers who will pick up any on going extra costs of impairment when employing a disabled person. The government will probably have to intervene in the labour market to solve this problem. Until these extra costs are openly debated and it is decided who will pay – the government cannot continue to air brush the costs of impairment away because they are an inconvenient truth.
They cannot continue to use ESA to try and force disabled people in to a labour market where they cannot compete. This is the Elephant in the room.
But disabled people can’t wait for the long term solutions. They are in crisis. Carers and disabled people have always faced long term poverty and lack of support. Welfare reform has made it far worse. ESA has added undue stress and pressure and increased the poverty and misery. The situation for disabled people is now at crisis point.
The mantra of welfare reform was that the only way out of poverty was through work. But welfare reform has not delivered work for disabled people. So the WRAG is a nightmare of pressure with no way out.
A new government will be elected in just over twelve months time ( May 7th 2015) and while we are waiting for a new long term approach to welfare, we think it is essential to try and take some simple steps from Day 1 of the new government to alleviate the distress of the current situation.
We suggest below some simple steps that could be taken from Day 1 of a new government. These steps will put disabled people in to a safer holding situation while this disaster is sorted out.
Until evidence shows that the labour market is proving more inclusive, the fear of being allocated to the WRAG must be reduced. The toxicity of the sanctions regime is accurately described here.
Suggestions for immediate changes from Day 1 – a safer holding position while welfare reforms are sorted out.
· Reduce the level of sanctions
· Take off the time limits before means testing ESA
· If means testing has to be retained raise the current absurd level of £7500 for a household of two people (note the opposition to the means test on tax credit at £45,000)
· Stop the incessant WCA re testing over and over again for long term or progressive conditions
· Take the Bedroom tax off disabled people (note how difficult relocation is for them with adapted homes and local support networks)
These changes will reduce the high level of costly appeals against being allocated to the WRAG.
Making these simple changes on Day 1 of a new government will make the WRAG safer and give disabled people some space to feel safe and breathe, while everyone works together to look for the long term answers.