CALL FOR A CEASEFIRE FOR ESA
STOP the SANCTIONS and TIME LIMITS in the WRAG – UNTIL EVIDENCE SHOWS PEOPLE ARE GETTING JOBS
A New Shadow Front Bench Team for Labour.
Jeremy Corbyn is the new Leader of the Labour Party and he has called for a New Kinder Politics.
Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch ask Jeremy to fight for a New Kinder WRAG
Debbie Abrahams is the new Shadow Minister for disability. Debbie already has a lot of experience of the harsh regime in the WRAG from her work on the Select Committee and we hope she will continue to fight against the sanctions and time limits which make the WRAG so unkind.
Luciana Berger is the first ever Shadow Minister for Mental Health. An exciting new appointment especially as so many people with mental health issues are being subject to inappropriate pressure in the WRAG.
Kate Green is the Shadow Minister for Equalities. Kate contributed to this blog for a long time in her previous post. We think Kate has the hardest job of all – the question of inequality in the workplace for disability is so much more complicated than the other Equalities. Some sick and disabled people may be less productive at times than fit workers and this makes this Equality fight different from the others.
Eight years in to ESA and we still haven’t had the discussion – what does ‘fit for work’ mean. We test for it but we don’t discuss or define it.
This is a capitalist society with a lean, mean labour market.
To the employer ‘fit for work’ means an employee who can compete with other contenders as someone who can produce the most work, the most reliably for the least money.
A sick and/or disabled person may be able to do this with reasonable adjustments. So with support they are ‘fit for work’.
So where does that leave other sick and disabled people who have conditions which mean that they may attend less regularly than a fit worker and some days not be as productive.
They are not ‘fit for work’ in this capitalist labour market.
They are ‘fit for work’ in a more benign environment where productivity is not the only concern. But that environment does not exist in the UK in 2015.
So they are not currently ‘fit for work’. They are mainly in an impossible position in the WRAG. This is a great opportunity for the new Kinder politics.
We hope Kate will finally be the person to tackle this issue. The government produced money to tackle Women’s Equality – many things like childcare and maternity leave. We need inspired, creative innovations for sick and disabled people to deal with any extra costs to the employer.
I want to say so much. Scream why?
At this time, while there is so much media attention on the significant number of deaths following a WCA, we at Pat’s Petition are taking a quiet moment to remember special friends and colleagues. In particular the seventh founder member of the Pat’s Petition Team. Just one among those we have lost.
We know that many of you will likewise be thinking about lost friends. The human and personal cost of each one of these 2380 deaths must not be forgotten.
Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show
Death has become a part of Britain’s benefits system here
Jeremy Corbyn says Iain Duncan Smith should resign over fit for work deaths here
The DWP say – “DWP does not hold information on the reason for death”
So yet again the DWP do not collect the information and have no way of knowing if their policies are safe. Just like the Cumulative Impact Assessment. They should want to know. It is their responsibility to know.
Stop the War against Sick and Disabled People
LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTEST
At last – some answers from the candidates. Thanks Disability Labour.
It’s great that all the leadership candidates are aware of how badly sick and disabled people seeking employment have been treated by the last government. Sadly the Labour Opposition did not speak up for them at the time.
However Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate to talk about lifting the harsh and punitive measures designed to pressurise disabled people in to work that they aren’t able to find.
Our Ceasefire campaign calls for the sanctions and time limits to be halted while disabled people still face these difficulties in finding work. Only Jeremy Corbyn talks about this.
WELFARE REFORM BILL
The WRAG finally came out in Parliament today. Stephen Timms, Kate Green, MPs from the SNP, LibDems and Labour talked about the WRAG – talked about the sick and disabled people in the WRAG who are assessed as not fit for work and don’t get jobs but are then treated as if they are imminently on their way back to work.
This was the first time that these issues with the WRAG have been given full attention in parliament. The attention was driven by the cut to ESA WRAG payments in the Welfare Bill.
Unfortunately the discussion didn’t go further and explore the grossly unfair sanctions and the time limits in the WRAG. But now that MPs have finally discovered that the WRAG is not full of recovering people on their way quickly and easily back to work – perhaps the discussion can move on to tackling the current cruel regime in the WRAG.
LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTENDERS
At last – some information on where the Labour Leadership Contenders stand on ESA.
John Pring at the Disability News Service has interviewed them all – see interviews here
Having looked carefully at the interviews our conclusion is that only Jeremy Corbyn understands and addresses the disastrous design flaws in the WRAG.
Ironically – cutting the level of payment in the WRAG to JSA levels has finally drawn public attention to this unhappy group. Great description of the problems in Ekklesia here. Read the Spartacus response here and here.
There seems to be an assumption that people in the WRAG will become fit for work with time. But nothing in the WCA test is about the expected course of any condition in the future. WCA merely says that you are not fit for work today. You may have a permanent or deteriorating condition. Why are they treating you as if you are getting better. Harriet Harman actually raised the point in PMQs that people with progressive conditions are in the WRAG.
David Cameron’s illogical response to Harriet Harman was to say that more people on JSA get work and so cutting to JSA levels was an incentive. This reinforced the idea that people in the WRAG are becoming fit for work and just need to be incentivised. But many are probably moving further from work if their condition is deteriorating.
Congratulations to Andy Burnham for challenging the cut in ESA in the Budget. Please can the Labour Party also challenge the existing punitive regime in the ESA/WRAG with sanctions and time limits.
Congratulation to Harriet Harman for challenging David Cameron at PMQs today about the cuts to ESA/WRAG payments in the Budget. David Cameron’s reply that ESA/WRAG was cut as an incentive to go to work because JSA claimants are more successful at finding work than ESA claimants is absurd. The evidence does show that JSA claimants are more successful which is why ESA claimants need more not less protection.
Given the cumulative impact on people in the WRAG of sanctions, time limits, means tests and now cuts in income we hope that the leadership contenders will now clarify their positions and tell us how they hope to protect people in the WRAG.
Three leadership contenders have challenged Harriet Harman about her suggestion that Labour will support the latest welfare reforms. Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch are disappointed that the focus has been so resolutely on tax credits for families. Not a mention of the reduction to JSA levels of ESA/WRAG in the Budget.
This is a repeat of the public outcry about means testing family benefits at £45,000. Massive media coverage. No mention that ESA/WRAG after a year is means tested at £7500. This replaced an unconditional income benefit. But no media coverage at all for cuts in disability benefits.
We have received a helpful reply from Yvette Cooper.
Thank you for contacting the Yvette for Labour campaign.
Labour introduced the ESA to offer more support to those who couldn’t work while recognising that, while some people might not be able to work immediately, they could be able to do so at some point in the future. That is why we created the work related activity group (WRAG) within ESA, and introduced work focussed health related assessments, scrapped by the last Tory led government. It is right to offer those who could work at some point the appropriate support to enable them to maintain skills and confidence, and contact with the labour market, in order to ease a future return to work.
But we also recognised people who could not work immediately would suffer additional financial hardship. Proposals to remove the work related activity element from ESA and cut the financial support to those individuals fly in the face of a benefit that was designed to enable and support a return to work for people when they were ready to do so, and properly protect them while they were unable to work.
The Yvette for Labour Team
At last we have a reply from one of the contenders.
Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign have told us – Yes, Jeremy is in favour of scrapping both sanctions and the WCA. Sorry for delay in reply.
So thank you Jeremy for the support.
Again we have written to all the Labour Leadership contenders and asked if they would support Ceasefire. And again – absolutely no reply.
This is very strange. In most elections – candidates are quick to engage with people – candidates are looking to explain their position and win support. What is different about this election – that candidates imagine they will win more support by saying nothing?
Many sick and disabled people and carers and their friends and families have looked to the Labour Party to support them. Many will be voting in this election as members or supporters. Surely they are entitled to know the policies that the potential new leader intends to implement and support.
CEASEFIRE is a very simple measure designed to protect sick and disabled people in the WRAG until the disastrous problems with ESA are sorted out. Sick and disabled people need this now.
We have repeatedly written the Labour Leadership contenders asking them if they will support Ceasefire.
Absolutely no reply from any of them.
It seems DNS is having the same problem.
So a new day – a new beginning – a new Conservative government and a new Labour opposition.
Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch will continue to campaign to persuade the new Labour and LibDem opposition to support CEASEFIRE.
We know that we have strong support in the new Parliament from the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru. Over the next few months we will be trying very hard persuade the leadership contenders in the Labour and LibDem parties to commit to supporting Ceasefire.
Watch this space.
Statement from Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch
Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch have tried to find out from all parties whether, if elected, they would call a halt and make time to put right the mistakes that have been made in welfare reform for disabled people and carers. Thousands of people have signed petitions asking for the government to assess the impact of all the changes before continuing with the experiment. We have asked for a ceasefire on ESA until they can prove that work programmes are successful.
Our findings are that the SNP, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru are supportive of these views.
The Conservative and Labour Parties are not.
Many thanks to all of you who have supported the Emergency Ceasefire campaign.
Please pass this statement on to everyone who may find the information helpful in deciding how to cast their vote.
The Contradiction that makes the WRAG Inhumane
The primary legislation for ESA defines sick and disabled people awarded ESA as having a condition that means that they are not required to work.
However the conditions in the WRAG for the last five years – mandatory work activity enforced by sanctions and a time limit of one year – is a regime that appears to require people in the WRAG to find work within a specific timescale. This is in contradiction to the legislation.
This is despite the evidence that continues to show that people in the WRAG don’t and can’t find work: the work programme isn’t working.
There is now also a terrible legacy of the many sick and disabled people who have been through the WRAG but have not found work within a year, and then been unjustly timed out from ESA. The Disappeared.
* Leaders Debate on 16th April
Many, many thanks to Natalie Bennett of the Green Party for so forcefully raising the issues of welfare in the Leaders Debate. We have to break the silence on welfare in these debates. Thank you.
Jonathan Bartley – Green Party Spokesperson for DWP – supported Ceasefire in this debate on 5th May
Leanne Wood – Leader – Plaid Cymru supports Ceasefire
We look forward to support for Ceasefire from Plaid Cymru in the new Parliament
Read the Plaid Cymru Disability commitments here
Christina McKelvie – SNP Member Scottish Parliament – Deputy Convenor of the Welfare Reform Committee
We look forward to support for Ceasefire in the new Parliament from the SNP
Christina McKelvie has submitted the following motion to the Scottish Parliament Motion Text:
Choice for those on ESA (other than those with a very short prognosis
of a return to work) , and will be contracted at local level so that
we are able to draw upon the expertise of specialist and local
disability organisations. I welcome your suggestion that innovative
projects could be co-produced with disabled people and carers, and we
will certainly want to encourage local authorities and others to
foster such approaches.For those in the WRAG, participation in the programme will be
mandatory, although Jobcentre Plus staff will work with claimants via
the claimant commitment to ensure the support they receive and the
programme they participate in is appropriate to their needs and
circumstances.We do think it’s reasonable that there should be conditions for
benefits for those able to work or prepare for work, but the system
must be proportionate, supportive and fair. Our reforms to the WCA,
our offer of specialist employment support, and our commitment to
abolish targets for sanctions will all help to ensure this.best wishes
We understand that Stephen Timms meant that Labour intend to replace the Work Programme with the Work Support Programme.
Please could you now give us more clarity and a statement on how you see the new Work Support Programme? In particular whether participation will be voluntary.
A new Programme could provide some innovative projects based on local need and co-produced with disabled people and carers. But collating evidence from disparate projects will be even more difficult.
As we said in an earlier e-mail – every key benefit change means some degree of experimentation, but experimenting on real people in real time has a real consequence for those it fails. The past five years have been excessively and unnecessarily traumatic. This new Programme is yet another experiment and as such we believe it should be treated as a pilot. We therefore think that, until the evidence comes in that it works, participation must be by choice rather than by sanction.
We believe that removing sanctions will enable any new programme to work with people who want to return to work. This gives an opportunity to build up some positive evidence on financial savings as well as success rates. Once it has been proved to work, then perhaps consider sanctions. But until any programme can be shown to be successful, it is unfair to sanction people who do not want to take part.
Enough is enough. We need a ceasefire for disabled people and carers.
Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch
* He also said that if Labour had resources to commit to welfare reform one of the first things he would like to do is extend time limiting for ESA beyond 12 months because it wasn’t long enough for people to recover.
We agree that ESA is still not fit for purpose.
Dear Pat, Frances and Rosemary
In response to your further points about the WRAG, there are twoissues to address: ensuring that the WCA process allocates people to that group only if it is appropriate to do so; and ensuring that those who are properly placed in the WRAG are able to access good quality employment-related support.
On the former, we have set out how we will improve the quality of the WCA, including introducing penalties on assessors for poor or wrong assessments. On the latter, we will replace the generic and failing Work Programme with a specialist programme of Work Support for disabled people on ESA, contracted locally, with the opportunity for smaller and specialist organisations to participate.
I believe these two strategies can address the concerns that have been raised about the experiences of those in the WRAG, including by the select committee. We will of course keep this under very close review in government.
Of course you may share this response (and my previous response) with your supporters via your website.
Sick and disabled people, and their carers, are suffering every day – caught up in the disaster that is the failed Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Groups from across the whole spectrum of disability campaigning have come together to call for a CEASEFIRE – until this is sorted out.
We call for an immediate truce during which the following practices are ended, while a new programme is co-produced with disabled people and carers – STOP * the use of sanctions * timing people out * means testing * bedroom tax for disabled people * repeated assessments We also suggest that – * anyone can use the current Work Programme – but only on an opt-in basis and without sanctions
This does not prejudice any long term changes, and we recognise that different groups have different aims.
These measures are not a long term solution, but together they would offer a period of safety in which to consider a better way forward.
The following people have signed in support of this Emergency Call for a Ceasefire
Jonathan Bartley Green Party Spokesperson for DWP – Leanne Wood Leader Plaid Cymru – Christina McKelvie SNP Member Scottish Parliament – Deputy Convenor of the Welfare Reform Committee -Pat Onions Pat’s Petition – Rosemary O’Neill CarerWatch – Gail Ward – Mo Stewart – Pam Pinder CarersforumUK – John McArdle Black Triangle – Carole Rutherford Act Now for Autism – Phil Connolly DRUK – Caroline Richardson Spartacus – Catherine Hale – Simon Duffy- Centre for Welfare Reform – Paul Swann Disability Wales – Ian Hodson BFAWU – Rosemary Trustam Community Living Initiatives Ltd CFAFS England – Sue Livett The Aldingbourne Trust – Bernadette Meaden – WOWcampaign -New Approach – Simon Barrow Director of Ekklesia – Prof Peter Beresford – Prof Alan Roulsden – Steve Griffiths – Chris Johnstone GP – Samuel Miller
If you, as an individual or group/organisation, support this action, please add your name in the comments below. You can also send any supporting statements to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.