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Welfare Reform and Work Bill: what happened and what’s next?

For the last seven months we have been working to influence the Welfare Reform and Work Bill since it was announced in the Queen’s Speech.

This week, the process of debating the Bill in both Houses of Parliament finished, and it will shortly receive Royal Assent. What will the finished Bill mean for disabled people and their families?

The Bill aims to achieve the Government’s manifesto commitment of ‘full employment‘.

As part of their plans to do so, the Government committed to halving the disability employment gap, following on from a Scope campaign.

Scope focused on ensuring that measures within this Bill supported more disabled people to find, stay and progress in work.

As the Bill went through Parliament, two key areas of focus were:

  • Calling on the Government to include a requirement in the Bill to report annually on the progress it makes towards halving the disability employment gap.
  • Opposing the reduction in financial support the Bill proposed for disabled people in the Employment and Support Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG).

Halving the employment gap

The Bill requires the Government to report annually to Parliament on the progress it is making towards full employment. We argued that the Government should also have to report each year on the progress it makes towards halving the disability employment gap, and this should be specifically included in the Bill.

In the House of Commons MPs tabled amendments (a proposed change), setting out this requirement and what the report should include. Once the Bill reached the House of Lords, Baroness Jane Campbell also tabled an amendment that was supported by Peers from across the House.

While the amendment was not accepted, Government Minister Lord Freud, made a ‘no ifs, no buts’ commitment that the annual report on full employment would contain a report on halving the disability employment gap.

Although we would have liked to see this commitment in legislation, this is an important commitment. Now we would like to hear more detail from the Government on what this report will contain, and we are meeting Ministers to discuss this further.

A reduction in ESA WRAG

The Bill proposed a £30 week reduction in support to new claimants of ESA WRAG from April 2017. The Government’s own impact assessment found this would be around half a million people.

We are really concerned about this change and think that will push disabled people further away from work.

Alongside other charities we supported three independent cross bench Peers to carry out a review into the impact this change would have. It found that the proposed cut to ESA WRAG would make it much harder for people in this group to find work.

When the Bill was in the House of Lords, we supported amendments by Lord Low, one of the Peers who led the Review, to remove this section from the Bill. The amendment was passed by the Lords and the Government defeated.

Changes to the Bill have to be passed by both Houses in a period called ‘Ping Pong’, with MPs having the final say. MPs voted to overturn the Lords changes but MPs from all parties spoke out in opposition to the change.

The House of Lords then passed a further amendment which would require the Government to carry out an impact assessment before these changes were introduced. Despite opposition from charities and many MPs this was also defeated by  the House of Commons. Lord Low described this as a ‘black day for disabled people’ .

We are disappointed that this will soon be law and that from April next year new ESA WRAG claimants will receive the same level of financial support as people on JSA. Cutting financial support is not an answer to halving the disability employment gap.

A vital opportunity to reform the system

Throughout the debate MPs, Peers and Government Ministers spoke about the upcoming White Paper on disability, health and employment which the Government has said will reform support for disabled people to further reduce the disability employment gap.

This is a crucial moment and it we hope that it might include reform of the Work Capability Assessment and set out new details on specialist employment support to address the structural barriers to work disabled people face.

This is a vital opportunity to reform the system to make it work for disabled people which must not be missed.

Read more blogs from our policy team

4 thoughts on “Welfare Reform and Work Bill: what happened and what’s next?”

  1. I am appalled what this government is doing to vulnerable people it seems they get treated badly for there disabilities. When benefits are assessed it seems it’s an all system for everyone when it should be on individual need and not short falling the genuine ones which seems the case. I am a Parent/Carer my son has Severe Learning disabilities, Epilepsy and Challenging behaviour I als challenged for an Austism assessment due to behaviour and out of character issues he was having this was a task to address because it felt he did not have this but I carried on until he was assessed last year and has been diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder and a care plan is in place to support this now he is 42yrs and its wrong to have to fight the system to be recognised. I have many things to say relating to failings in the system because we have struggled to be listened to relating to his learning disability needs the system does not work related to them. The need is to assess on an individual need because everyone is different. The benefit system is appalling for people with ongoing conditions that’s why for the DLA benefit to PIP I have set up a petition at relating to the Indefinite claim being removed, link my name to the petition site or I will forward it by email. If you contacted people for there views in this issue you will get lots of response. People need to be listened to at the end of the day they are the ones who get knocked back on all these cuts and changes.

    1. Thank you very much for taking an interest in our blog. You are absolutely right – it is vital that disabled people are listened to, and that their views and experiences are front and centre when any changes happen to the systems that support them – both on an individual level and on a national level. That’s why Scope makes sure that everything we say and do about Government proposals has the stories, views and experiences of disabled people at the heart of it. We use this blog, our Twitter and Facebook accounts to let people know and to encourage them to get in touch with us when we are gathering people’s stories and experiences around a particular issue. If you would like to get involved, please keep looking here and on Twitter and get in touch the next time we post something. Thank you!

    2. Why is it an up hill struggle to prove our disability s. I have cerball. Pausy. and feel ashamed with having it because I just feei I am are costing the government. Mo. I. was. born with it do we deserve this guilt.

  2. the whole bill is a disgrace to a caring society
    out duty is to protect and support people with disability

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