Thursday 21 October 2010

ESA to be limited for one year

Last night, Tom Clark in The Guardian reported that 

Taking the measures one at a time, the first – and the biggest – was to "time limit contributory employment and support allowance" for one year, that is the benefit formerly known as incapacity benefit. What this means is that a disabled or seriously sick person who has a working spouse, however low-paid their job may be, will lose their personal entitlement to benefits after a year.
Singles will be able to fall back on a means-tested safety net, but everyone else will be forced to rely on the generosity of their partner. Expect wheelchairs in Downing Street as the coalition does away with the long-established principle that people who have contributed their own national insurance in the past, and then become sick and disabled, should expect a modest stipend from the state in recognition of this.

The CSR document in fact states that there will be 

“a time limit to contributory Employment and Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group of one year”
After a spending review like yesterday's, the media need to be very careful indeed about checking their facts before they print information as inflammatory as the paragraphs by Mr Clark.

When an assessment for ESA is carried out, the claimant is either considered suitable to look for work and is therefore placed in the Work related Activity Group, where they attend training and receive support to find suitable employment. If they are assessed as unable to work, they are put in the Support group and the changes WILL NOT AFFECT THEM.

Now, there is an excellent argument to be made that some of those placed in the Work Related Activity Group will have been wrongly assessed or will take a very long time indeed to get a job due to the difficulties they face. Stopping ESA altogether for these people after one year and expecting a partner to look after them financially is yet another example of the coalition drawing arbitrary lines in the sand without considering the impact it will have on families. However, it does NOT constitute the totally callous disgrace that Mr Clark initially implied and his comments will have caused extreme distress to many seriously ill people who could not work under any circumstances, however much they might love to.

There were many examples in Mr Osborne's CSR yesterday of an easy disregard for people's future's, a lack of understanding of the consequences of many of his proposals - we don't need to embroider any to make it sound even worse than it is. During these oh-so-sensitive times, the media need to do something rather alien to them - just report the facts.

Over the next few weeks I will be keeping a very close eye on this and will certainly comment on how people are affected by the change, but this morning, things look rather better than the initial reporting suggested.


  1. Hi Sue........Bloody useless Grauniad, so obsessed with making political capital out of people's fears, to sell a few newspapers to Union officials and activists, that they forget to tell the truth....that doesn't matter though, as long as they put the wind up you and people in similar positions, I trust that Pam and Éoin will fire off letters expressing their disgust at this rag's blatant dis-regard of the facts, and its cynical exploitation of vulnerable people, even the Sun wouldn't stoop that low. A printed apology at least, is required. Anyway, the good news is, you are less stressed out than yesterday, it's a lovely day here, I hope you can get out for a bit to enjoy it.

  2. Ken - Indeed, you can see I'm pretty ticked off about such sloppy journalism. I suppose there was so much info to be digested after yesterday, they didn't check the facts, but that's not good enough, especially when it causes such fear. ITV news reported it the same way.
    It is indeed a lovely day Ken, and I'm out of bed for the first time this week, so you never know...

  3. Good morning Sue
    I tried to post to your site yesterday but I think something went wrong at my end. IMO we need time to study the small print. Headlines are so often misleading.
    Best Wishes

  4. Small print studied Colin, but it was the article, not the headline.
    Anyway, this morning, it is a huge relief that not ALL sick people will be arbitrarily thrown on the scrapheap.
    It is however, on record that George Osborne's figures include finding 1.5 MILLION people on ESA suddenly fit to work, so we'll just have to see exactly how he does it.

  5. My fears about the small print apply to the whole package. I cannot supress my cynical side! The next few days will be interesting and maybe terrible at the same time IMO.

  6. Aha, I see Colin.
    Indeed, I think this government seem intent on saying one thing and doing quite another.

    As you say, the small print will only be fully digested over the coming weeks and months, but if the CSR is anything like the fiascos we've already seen over "free" schools, the NHS reforms and child benefit, I fear an almighty mess. :(

  7. These comments seem to suggest that people who pass the test and declared unfit to work or ok and that contributory ESA is not meanstested. But that is not the case some people who cannot work and live on their own like myself with no income other than relying on ESA will get nothing if they have savings over £16000 as after 1 year it will be means tested.That is due to come out in 2012. They have no working partner to help financially and therefore savings wont last long which is a Godsend when not being able to work and when reaching retirement age anyway.I would normally be retired at 60 in 2014 and prob not checked as they are leaving those out but the government altered the retirement yr so now I have to wait till 63 with nothing if means tested but to see the savings disappear so fast.The saving actually have come to me in inheritance only last yr as being on incap for so long never managed to build any up and always in an overdraft situation.Once my saving have gone I will now be in risk of having to sell my house.I doubt whether many people out there living on their own who pass the ESA test realise that savings will take away there ESA and they get nothing!

    the NI contributions all those years counting for nothing! Even when I go onto ESA from Longterm incapacity which have been on for 28yrs paying full NI