EMERGENCY CALL FOR A CEASEFIRE FOR ESA
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.
Ceasefire is supported by –
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
Christina McKelvie has submitted the following motion to the Scottish Parliament Motion Text:
That the Parliament welcomes the campaign by Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch for an immediate “ceasefire” on welfare reform; notes their call for an immediate truce on the use of sanctions, timing people out, the use of the bedroom tax for disabled people and repeated assessments for those deemed unfit for work; believes that, throughout the Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse parliamentary constituency and across Scotland, disabled people are being punished by welfare reform, and notes the view that, until a system is introduced that supports carers and disabled people, welfare reform should brought to an end.
STOP PRESS – GREAT NEWS FROM LABOUR
Last night at a hustings held by the Disability Benefits Consortium the Labour Minister Stephen Timms said -* Labour will take ESA off Work Programme apart from those with short awards (3 or possibly 6 months)
* 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.
THANK YOU LABOUR
*Correspondence with Kate Green of the Labour Party – in reverse time order – latest at top
Thank you for taking part in this discussion. It has been very useful.
We agree that ESA is still not fit for purpose.
We are pleased that you are suggesting yet further proposals to try and make ESA work, but trust you will understand when we say that we don’t think this is the complete answer.
After the weary history of past failed attempts, we remain sceptical that any further experimentation will provide the illusive solution. The five annual reviews of WCA have not made any significant impact, nor the many changes to the Work Programme over the last five years. As a result the WCA has resulted in damage to the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people. Most people recognise now that there is no quick fix. We have to be realistic and face up to the reality that for the next few years ESA will still not be fit for purpose.
The test that reform has worked will be real evidence about people moving in to work and that will take time.
Moving to self-referral to the Work Programme for a fixed period of time would provide an opportunity to develop the evidence for people who want to return to work. The benefits are likely to include a significant financial saving and increased wellbeing (less stress) for sick and disabled people. Only once the Work Programme has been proved to be helpful and successful, should we start looking again at sanctions and compulsory programmes.
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. Enough is enough.
So what we are asking in Ceasefire is for protection in the meantime until ESA is made safe. Please will you support Ceasefire and make the work programme voluntary and stop the time limits – until you have evidence that sick and disabled people are moving in to work.
It would be great to announce that Labour is supporting Ceasefire before the Thunderclap on Thursday and the next Leaders Debate.
Pat, Rosemary, Frances
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.
We welcomed these assurances. However we were still concerned that the WRAG is not fit for purpose and sent the following reply to Kate.
Thank you for this. We welcome your assurances on the bedroom tax and the unnecessary repeated assessments.
That leaves us with the problem of the WRAG. When Labour introduced ESA Lord Oakeshott said that it was an enormous social experiment and there was no evidence to base it on. Lord Mackenzie for Labour agreed. Lord Oakeshott said that the Lords were effectively being asked to sign a blank cheque. Lord Mackenzie agreed. The check and balance they agreed on was that ESA would be closely monitored and adjusted in the light of emerging evidence. We think the time has come to deliver on that promise.
The evidence is now available. Most sick and disabled people in the WRAG are not getting jobs. This may be due to the nature of the competitive labour market that they have to compete in or the nature of the work programme. It is not the fault of sick and disabled people.
We think it is now time to deliver on that promise and stop penalising sick and disabled people in the WRAG in an attempt to force them to do something that they cannot do. Until such time as the evidence shows that sick and disabled people can move in to employment we think the work programme should become voluntary and the meaningless time limit should be lifted.
We really hope that you can agree to these promised checks and balances until the evidence shows that this model for ESA is delivering jobs.
Pats Petition and CarerWatch
Kate Green – Disability Spokesperson for Labour tells us – We have been clear that sanctions must be used sparingly and appropriately, and that there must be no “targets” for the number of cases sanctioned by Jobcentre Plus.
Kate Green has written to us and said -
You will also be aware that Labour has committed to scrap the bedroom tax as soon as we come into government, and this will of course particularly benefit the two thirds of households affected who have a disabled family member and the 60,000+ carers affected. We are anxious to reduce the number of unnecessary face to face assessments, which can cause stress to individuals and pile up cost to the public purse, by better sharing of information across different assessment processes, and by imposing penalties on providers for poor or wrong assessments. And we also agree that those not required to look for work should be able to access support via the Work Programme (or the new localised programme of specialist support that we intend to put in place to replace it for disabled people) on a voluntary basis
Read about the campaign here
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 These will be added to correspondence sent to MP’s from all Parties.