Tag Archives: ESA

The Budget 2017 – What does it mean for disabled people?

The Chancellor Philip Hammond has delivered the Spring Budget today. In this blog we look at the impact the budget will have on disabled people across the country. 

Ahead of today we were calling for sustainable investment in social care, a reversal of the reduction in financial support for those in the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG) and for Government to think again on changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

The Budget contained some positive news for disabled people on social care yet we were disappointed by the Government’s failure to mention, let alone reconsider, upcoming changes to disability benefits.

Social care

Following calls from disabled people, charities, MPs and local councils, the Government has provided a cash injection of £2 billion for social care over the next three years.

We hope this is good news for the 400,000 working age disabled people who rely on social care for assistance with everyday tasks such as cooking and getting dressed.

We were really disappointed when there was no further funding announced for social care in the Autumn Statement and so we are pleased that the Government has listened to calls for urgent funding.

The care system has been under immense financial strain over the past few years, with the adult social care budget reduced by £4.6 billion since 2010. £1 billion of new funding will be available this year, yet the King’s Fund has predicted the funding gap for this period will be nearly twice that at £1.9 billion.

The Government also today announced a Green Paper on social care, we will be campaigning to make sure this consultation and following action focuses on how the social care system will provide the support and outcomes important to disabled people.

Financial security

PIP is intended to help disabled people cover some of the extra costs they face as a result of their disability, on average, £550 a month. Therefore we think it is vital PIP focuses on the extra costs disabled people actually face, and not their impairment or condition. We are concerned about the Government’s move to tighten up access to PIP and have been speaking to Ministers and MPs about our concerns since the legislation was announced.

We wanted to see the Government use the Budget to reconsider this change and take the opportunity to review the PIP assessment process. Our helpline has seen a 542 per cent increase in calls relating to PIP over the last year, with many people successfully appealing their original decision.

We are disappointed the Government intends to go ahead with these changes, and will keep raising our concerns with Government.

Employment

The Government has made a welcome commitment to halve the disability employment gap and we’ve been working hard over the last year to set out the reforms needed for disabled people both in and out of work to help make this goal a reality.

However, next month new claimants in the ESA WRAG will see a £30 a week reduction in their financial support. We don’t think that this will help disabled people find work and have been campaigning against these changes since they were first announced. Disabled people are already less financially resilient than non-disabled people, with an average of £108,000 fewer savings and assets. A reduction in financial support could end up creating an additional barrier to work.

We are concerned the Government are pressing ahead with this reduction. Having missed the opportunity to halt the reduction in the Budget, we, alongside other disability charities, will continue to push for this to happen before the change takes effect.

The Prime Minister has set out her vision of a country that works for everyone, yet following this Budget there is much more that needs to be done to include specific needs of disabled people in that vision. We’ll continue campaigning on all of these issues and more to make this case.

What we would like to see in the Autumn Statement 2016

This Wednesday Phillip Hammond will give his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor, the Government’s first major financial statement since the vote to leave the European Union.

At Scope we’ve been campaigning and raising awareness of the important issues that disabled people face ahead of Wednesday’s Autumn Statement announcement.

Autumn Statement

There has been lots of speculation about what he will include. He has decided not to go ahead with previous Chancellor George Osborne’s formal target to create a budget surplus by 2020 which will give him some flexibility on how much he spends.

Theresa May’s first speech as Prime Minister set out her commitment to creating a country that ‘works for everyone’ and ‘allowing people to go as far as their talents will take them.’ A recent common theme has been a focus on those ‘just about managing.’ But what does this mean for disabled people and what are Scope been calling for?

Last week we saw passionate speeches from all parties about the need to rethink the implementation of forthcoming reductions in financial support to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), at the beginning of the month the Government launched its consultation to tackle the disability employment gap; and, last month we published research highlighting the crisis in social care for young disabled people.

Taken together, there are many disabled people who are ‘just about managing’.

Our Extra Costs work has highlighted life costs more if you’re disabled. £550 a month more. From the need to purchase appliances and equipment, through to spending more on energy. And yet payments aimed at alleviating these – such as Personal Independence Payments (PIP) – often fall short of enabling disabled people to meet extra costs, leaving many turning to credit cards and payday loans to help with everyday living.

Ahead of the Autumn Statement we think there are three key areas that need addressing.

Social Care

Social care has been at the top of the news agenda in the run up to the Autumn Statement with the Care Quality Commission, Local Government Association, Care and Support Alliance and even the Conservative Chair of the Health Select Committee saying the social care system is in desperate need of investment. Working age disabled adults represent nearly a third of social users.

We have long been calling for sustainable funding in social care. Reductions in funding to local government over the past six years mean the social care system is starting to crumble under extreme financial pressure. We have heard from disabled people who have had to sleep fully-clothed, in their wheelchairs. Scope research in 2015 found that 55 per cent of disabled people think that social care never supports their independence. And just last month we found young disabled adults’ futures are comprised by inadequate care and support.

Social care plays a vital role in allowing many disabled people to live independently, work and be part of their communities. That’s why urgent funding and a long-term funding settlement are needed.

Extra Costs

On average, disabled people spend £550 a month on disability related costs and when we asked disabled people about their top priorities for the Autumn Statement, 70% said protecting disability benefits. We want to see PIP continue to be protected from any form of taxation or means-testing and the value of PIP protected.

The Government is expected to announce significant infrastructure investment and there will be potentially be announcements on digital infrastructure and energy.

We hope energy companies are required to think more about how they can support these consumers with their energy costs more effectively. With 25 per cent of disabled adults having never used the internet compared to 6 per cent of non-disabled adults, any new digital skills funding should include specific funding for disabled people.

Employment

The Government made a welcome commitment in their manifesto to halve the disability employment gap and a plan on how to achieve this in the Improving Lives consultation.

The Autumn Statement provides an opportunity for the Government to take steps to support disabled people to find, and stay in work.

Last week, MPs debated the changes to Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group due to begin in April 2017. MPs from across political parties have been urging the Government to think again about the changes. Half a million disabled people rely on ESA and we know they are already struggling to make ends meet. Over the last year we have been campaigning against this decision as we believe reducing disabled people’s financial support by £30 per week will not help the Government meet their commitment to halve the disability employment gap.

Read more about the Green Paper and how to get involved with the consultation.

Welfare Reform and Work Bill – House of Lords debates the future of ESA

The Welfare Reform and Work Bill continues its journey through Parliament. At each stage of the Bill’s passage, Scope has been speaking to MPs, Peers, the Government and partner organisations about our priorities and the changes we would like to see to the Bill.

The Bill proposes changes to the financial support some disabled people receive.  

The Welfare Reform and Work Bill is currently at Committee Stage in the House of Lords when all Peers have the opportunity to analyse the Bill, debate each section and vote on amendments.

Today, Peers will be debating some of the sections of the Bill which are key priorities for Scope as they relate to our campaign to halve the disability employment gap and support for disabled people to find, stay and progress in work.

Cuts to financial support

The Government plans to cut the level of financial support to disabled people in the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). Disabled People in the WRAG have been found unfit for work by the independent Work Capability Assessment.

This cut in support of around £30 a week to new claimants would impact nearly half a million people in the WRAG.

We think that this cut will push disabled people further away from the jobs market and make their lives harder.

We know that disabled people take longer to get back into work than non-disabled people as they face a number of barriers finding and staying in work. Therefore, we are concerned that this reduction will mean disabled people on ESA WRAG will have a very low income for a long period of time.

Disabled people also have fewer savings than non-disabled people (an average of £108,000 fewer savings and assets) so we are worried that this change will have a significant impact on their financial wellbeing.

Progress towards halving the disability employment gap

Taking forward Scope’s campaign recommendation, the Government has made a welcome commitment to halve the disability employment gap.

Currently the employment rate for disabled people is 47.6%. The gap between disabled people’s employment rate and the rest of the population has remained static at 30% for over decade.
Despite the Government’s ambition, the gap has actually now risen since this time last year.

The Welfare Reform and Work Bill requires the Government to report on the progress it makes towards achieving its aim of Full Employment. However, this can’t be achieved without halving the disability employment gap, so we would also like the Government to report each year on the progress towards meeting it. This will ensure that this important target remains on the public and political agenda.

We hope that in today’s debate we will also hear more details on the announcements in the Spending Review last week on the future of specialist employment support. Specialist employment support enables many disabled people to overcome the barriers they face and move into work and progress in their careers.

This film shows the importance of specialist employment support and how Scope’s employment service in Worthing has supported one young person into work.

You can follow today’s debate via Scope’s Twitter and also the Parliament Live website.

Behind the figures: what do today’s sanctions figures mean for disabled people?

New figures out today show the scale of the Government’s new sanctions regime. In total, over 90,000 disabled people have had their benefits suspended for anywhere between 3 weeks and 3 years. Here’s four things you need to know:

How many disabled people do sanctions affect?

Since November 2012, when sanctions were tightened, 90,004 disabled people have had their benefits suspended.

This breaks down as 82,860 disabled people on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) – the out-of-work benefit available to everyone – and 7,180 disabled people on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which is meant to be for those who face the biggest barriers to work.

This means that 1 in 7 of the total number of JSA claimants who’ve been sanctioned are disabled people, and 4 in 5 of the total number of ESA.

How does this compare to previous years?

It’s hard to say exactly, because DWP haven’t published figures specifically for disabled people before last year.

But looking at the figures for those on ESA – the majority of whom are disabled people – we can get a sense of how many more people are being sanctioned under the new regime. The increase is pretty shocking.

Since December 2012 the number of ESA sanctions was 11,400. For the same period in 2011/12, the number of people sanctioned was 5,750. This is an increase of 50%.

Compare this with an 11% increase for JSA sanctions year on year, and it’s clear that the regime change has had an even more dramatic effect for those who face the most barriers to work.

Why are people being sanctioned?

What the stats show is people being sanctioned for things like missing interviews with advisers, or not engaging with the Work Programme, or sending enough job applications.

What they don’t show is the reality for disabled people: interviews with advisers clashing with medical appointments; inaccessible transport; advisers without specialist understanding of conditions and impairments; a lack of jobs with the flexibility disabled people often need.

Do sanctions work?

No. Disabled people face a wide-range of barriers to work. Lack of available jobs, fewer qualifications and even negative attitudes from some employers can make the workplace daunting.

So simply taking away benefits from a disabled person really doesn’t help – as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have repeatedly pointed out. In fact, suspending benefits can make things worse: stats from the Trussell Trust show that increasing use of food banks is linked to the tightening of sanctions.

Instead of simply suspending benefits for no reason, we need a system that actually works for disabled people, that supports them to find a job they want, and that takes seriously the barriers they face.

Employment Support Allowance appeal

Guest post from Panther

After having sent all the paperwork and extra medical evidence in for an appeal in November I still hadn’t heard anything so I spoke to the appeals person from my welfare rights team who had helped me fill the forms in yesterday and they advised me to ring the benefits people. Although the welfare rights person is acting on my behalf he said he wouldn’t be able to phone as I wasn’t with him to answer the security questions and give my permission for him to talk to them for me.

For 10 minutes yesterday I was left hanging on the phone while I waited to speak to an advisor, when I eventually got to speak to someone I was told that yes there was a note on my file that said I had requested an appeal and she could see the letter on the system that had been sent in dated 21st November 2011. The advisor told me it can take months for them to reach a decision when they look at your ESA claim again but she would put a link through to the department dealing with it and ask them to contact me to give me an update.

So this morning I got a phonecall from a DWP office in Hyde why I was getting a phonecall from an office in Hyde when I’d been told to send all the paperwork to Cosham I don’t know. The person at the Hyde office told me there was no note on the system saying that I had requested an appeal and that they hadn’t received any paperwork relating to it. They were going to put another link through to Cosham to see if they had the paperwork somewhere.

I then made another phonecall to the DWP on the number I’d rung yesterday and after another wait of over 10 minutes I was told by another advisor who I discovered aren’t advisors at all just call centre workers that the Hyde office are right there is no record of me asking for an appeal or any of the paperwork that I’d sent in to support my appeal. After a very stressful phonecall where I got very upset arguing how could one person tell me there were notes of an appeal being requested plus when I said a letter was sent requesting for an appeal and that letter was dated 21st November I was told yes I can see that, in less than 24 hours all these things have disappeared!!

I’ve now got an appeal form being sent out to me so have to arrange another visit from the welfare rights appeal person again and have been advised by the call centre that I can either send it back in the envelope provided or I can go to my local job centre. But even going to my local jobcentre isn’t straight forward I can’t just pop in there when it is done I have to phone the call centre back and make an appointment to go into the jobcentre because that is the only way I will be given a receipt for the paperwork I take in. How hard can it be for someone to write a receipt?

Apparently on this second appeal paperwork I have to state that this is a second request for an appeal and we want it accepted because the first paperwork was lost. I’ve got to do this because by only now finding out that none of the appeal stuff was received I am passed the time period I had in which to request an appeal.

This afternoon as I sat still thinking over all I’ve heard this morning I decided to try and speak to the Cosham office so I rang again and yet again was in a queue for over 10 minutes to find out that you can’t be put through to a specific benefit office it all has to go via the call centre who put a link on the system then asking that particular office to call you back!

By talking to this third person I learnt that at the call centre they only have access to certain things on the system they are unable to see any correspondence that has been sent in etc so she can’t understand how the first person I spoke to told me she could see the letter I was talking about.

I also finally had it explained to me why there were two offices involved, if I was a new claimant of ESA then my claim would be dealt with in Cosham that’s why letters I receive have Cosham’s address on it. But because I am moving from Incapacity Benefit to ESA it is dealt with by Hyde.

I did get told this afternoon that the person I’d spoken to this morning had put a link into Cosham and they have said they never received any of my paperwork regarding an appeal.

So now I’ve been advised that when I’ve filled out the appeal form and got any supporting evidence together to phone and make the appointment to go to the job centre and get them to fax it over to where it needs to go to as that will be the quickest and safest way of ensuring it is received.

I suggested to the call centre worker that perhaps letters of acknowledgement should be sent out for example when I do a DLA form I receive a letter to say they have received it and it should be processed in X number of weeks. At least if ESA did that I would of known within 2 weeks of send all the information in that my request hadn’t been received and could of acted on it sooner. I said this whole change over of benefits is stressful enough without having to deal with hearing different things from various people when you phone up and paperwork getting lost. The call centre worker agreed with me and said many of the suggestions disabled people had made the call centre workers agreed with but they were just call centre workers on behalf of DWP so couldn’t do anything

Now I just have to hope when I’ve filled everything in for the appeal that it is accepted and then wait for the outcome.

Panther