Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch welcome the discussion on 5th September 2014 comparing the ease of access to ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) with access to the old IB (Incapacity Benefit).
However it is important to compare like with like. The new ESA is not equivalent to the old IB and they should not be compared directly. We would suggest that the new ESA Support Group alone should be considered as equivalent to the award of long term IB. If you compare these figures you will find that it is much harder to get in to the Support Group than it was to claim IB.
The ESA WRAG (Work Related Activity Group) is a temporary, time limited benefit, suitable for people with short term injuries or illnesses, who will get better and return to work within a year. It only lasts twelve months. It is the equivalent of the old short term IB.
We would also note other distortions to the figures including the time taken to process the initial application. If there is a short time to process, then all the short term injuries need to be counted, whereas with a longer processing period, these short term disabilities are gone before they are included.
We have pressed for a cumulative impact assessment of these changes and slowly we are seeing acknowledgement that this must be done . We cannot wait much longer.
We have always said that changes should not be brought in until the full effects are understood: they wouldn’t do this in any new transport system or construction plan so why are they allowed to experiment in this way on disabled people? .
There are many other issues involved in the comparisons – this needs serious analysis from professional and independent statisticians such as those at Sheffield Hallam University. This would all be part of a thorough cumulative impact assessment and we urge the government to ensure this is completed as a matter of urgency.