Taking the fear out of ESA

Disabled people are currently being migrated from Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This is causing immense anxiety and distress and this should not be the case. ESA needs reform to take this fear away and we will all know when ESA becomes fit for purpose because disabled people will be happy to be allocated to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and the appeals will melt away.   The source of most of the anxiety is currently located in the fear of being allocated to the (WRAG). Unfortunately the supportive environment which was envisaged for the WRAG that would have provided a safe place for disabled people to consider how they might return to work has not materialised. Instead the WRAG is a coercive environment where disabled people live under the threat of sanctions while they are in the WRAG and means testing and perhaps losing ESA after a year. This is a daunting prospect for them given that currently almost no disabled people are moving from the work program in to work.   If the WRAG could be returned to a safe, supportive group where disabled people were not in fear of sanctions and means testing – then they could relax and regain control of their own lives and find better solutions to getting work or meaningful activity.   Making the WRAG safe would also have the added effect of taking the fear out of the WRAG and encouraging people in the Support Group to think about taking up activity. At the moment fear of being moved to the WRAG inhibits this for many people....

Liam Byrne offers to make ESA fit for purpose

Pat’s Petition went to Westminster to see Liam Byrne. Liam agreed that the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)  isn’t working. He agreed that the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of ESA is not the helpful, safe, supportive place it was meant to be. Liam told us that he is about to run a six month ‘conversation’ with disabled people about making ESA fit for purpose. He said that at the end of the six months he hopes to put together a set of proposals about how to change ESA so that it works for everyone. So this is the time to look carefully at ESA and tell Liam  how we want it changed. The first knee jerk response will be to continue to complain about the assessment process because that is where people first hit ESA. But this assessment is only the gateway to the real problem of the WRAG. If you are allocated to the WRAG and spend a year there then when you look back at the assessment it may look like a walk/ride in the park. The campaign that will actually do the most to improve people’s lives is a campaign to make the WRAG a supportive place instead of a living hell. If you are allocated to the WRAG you will have to take part in the work programme. Disabled people are terrified of having to do this and being required to do things that they feel they may not be able to do. Your advisor will be working for a private company and will be paid by results so you have a bounty on...

TeamPP’s meeting with Liam Byrne and Anne McGuire

Yesterday some of  the team at Pat’s Petition went to Westminster to meet Liam Byrne and Anne McGuire. Thank you to all of you who sent messages of support which we handed on to Liam. The meeting was very successful. Liam is determined that he will give us an Opposition Day Debate as soon as he can calling for a Cumulative Impact Assessment – if possible before the budget. We are all aware how thick and fast the cuts are raining down and that so many more cuts are due to be implemented in April. So this is a matter of urgency and we have to be prepared to move on this as soon as we get the week’s notice. This will take us all standing together. More details...

STATEMENT – VALUES INTO ACTION SCOTLAND

STATEMENT VALUES INTO ACTION SCOTLAND   Values Into Action Scotland believes that people with learning difficulties and individuals on the autistic spectrum should have the opportunity to have paid employment.   We understand that, for many, good quality support is needed to help them achieve this. People with learning difficulties and individuals on the autistic spectrum who have enjoyed a successful working life have told us that the support that works for them is:-   * Good quality benefits advice * Help to think about and plan out what an ideal job might look like * Job finding support * Help to talk to employers * Support on/ off the job * A career for life (with planning and support to achieve this) This process is often referred to as Supported Employment.   Currently there is no UK wide programme that offers this type and level of support. Instead, there is growing concern that many people with legitimate significant support needs who undergo the Work Capability Assessment are being told that:-   * They are ineligible for Employment Support Allowance and are transferred onto time limited Job Seekers Allowance. * They are ineligible to be placed in the Employment Support Allowance Support Group. Instead they find themselves in the Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group.   From either of these two scenarios, people are often then placed onto the Work Programme. Following investigation, Panorama recently aired a programme exposing the following:-   * Work Programme providers are only helping a very small fraction of disabled people into work. * They are failing to refer people to sub-contractor charities...

What are you testing for – Mr Duncan-Smith?

ESA – What are you testing for – Mr Duncan-Smith? The government haven’t defined what ‘fit for work’ means. They can’t because there is no simple definition. So how do they expect to test for it with a tick box test. What the government is really testing for is the potential in some conditions to possibly do some work some times. This is not the same as fit to work and disabled people in the WRAG should not be coerced with sanctions and time limits as if they are fit to work.   It was wonderful to see all the support from MPs this week at the WCA debate arranged by Michael Meacher MP – but very sad to think that it has taken all this misery to awaken this interest when it was so predictable and could have been avoided.   But CarerWatch think that the major flaw in ESA was overlooked – again. People keep talking about ‘improving the tests’ and ‘getting the tests right’. They talk as if being ‘fit for work’ is a known concept which can be tested for. But it isn’t a defined concept in the modern world and so it can’t be tested for. And that makes WCA a nonsense.   You can’t devise a test for something that you don’t have a clear definition for. And being ‘fit for work’ is not a clearly defined concept. In fact it isn’t a concept at all in 2012.   In the old days we had a very clear idea that fit people could work and ill and disabled people couldn’t. But the world has changed and the social...

PATS DEBATE – the WRAG – a ticket to nowhere

ESA WRAG is a ticket to nowhere. CarerWatch hope that Employment Support Allowance (ESA) will be put fully under the microscope for the first time in Pat’s Debate. In particular that speakers will look at the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and tell the real truth about it.   The government should admit that the WRAG is not about finding work. The WRAG is simply about moving sick and disabled people from an unconditional benefit to a means tested benefit to save money.   Four fifths of sick and disabled people will be allocated to the WRAG on migration from IB. It’s becoming clear that the WRAG  is an out of work benefit like JSA. It wasn’t protected from the inflation cap in the Autumn Statement. You are expected to find work.    It treats people as effectively fit and time limits them to a year before means testing. The feature that terrifies most disabled people is the coercion in the work program with forced work placements and sanctions for non compliance. It is unfair to force these decisions on disabled people if you haven’t walked in their shoes.   The cover story is that these people are on their way to work when in fact only 1.5% of sick and disabled people are finding work through the work program in the WRAG.   The WRAG is a confidence trick for moving to means testing disability support. Can speakers in this debate be the first to be honest about this.   The heart ache over the WCA tests is really located in what the future holds when you are allocated to the...