Monday 14 March 2011

Time limiting ESA will cost WORKING families £4,661 a year

Today, I'm launching my new campaign.

During the CSR, George Osborne announced that he would be time-limiting ESA (Employment Support Allowance, previously Incapacity Benefit) to one year. This means, that anyone with a working partner found capable of doing any kind of work at all will only receive state support for one year. Once that year is up they will receive no help at all, a loss of £4661. This is three times as much as higher rate taxpayers will lose in child benefit. 

Under the much tougher assessment system of ESA, just 7% of those with an illness or disability are being found incapable of working at all, so it doesn't take a mathematician to realise that most people with long term illnesses such as Parkinson's, Cancer, Bowel Disease, Lupus, Kidney failure, Heart disease, MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Mental illness, Lung disease and many, many more are being found "Fit to Work". These work assessments have been found "unfit for purpose" by Compass, the Citizens Advice Bureau, the professor who designed the system and even the government's own advisory committee.

Extraordinarily, this is a cut that will only affect WORKING couples and families. It will only affect households who have had to suffer the misfortune of someone becoming too ill to work. If they have a working partner they will lose every penny. 

This is why I oppose time limiting ESA.

ESA is a contributory benefit. We all pay National Insurance. We pay 11% of our wages every month for this insurance. (Next month it goes up to 12%) This is not an inconsiderable amount! 12% a month every month for years and years.

One of the covenants of this insurance is that you will receive a modest payment if you become too sick to work.  (ESA is £388.45 a month.) If you have a working partner, then it is the only income you receive. You have to pay for prescriptions and medical aids and travel. You get no housing benefit or council tax benefit,  £388.45 is your total payment from that vast insurance fund we all pay into. 

ESA is by no way imaginable a "lifestyle choice". You cannot live on £388.45 a month. You are a drain on your family. The state acknowledges this in a modest way but by no means makes life so comfortable that you don't want to work if you could. 


I worked for nine years. I have a degree and nearly killed myself trying to forge a career in the face of terrible illness. In the end I had no choice. Working was killing me. Friends and family pleaded, begged even, but it took me a long time to accept that I could no longer work. Giving up on my hopes and dreams was the single hardest thing I ever had to come to terms with. 

We had our own house for years - a beautiful beamed fisherman's cottage by the sea - but we had to sell it before it was repossessed, as our income fell from £46,000 a year to 21k a year. The equity we did manage to save is eaten away a little every month as we have to make up the shortfall in our income. But we are trapped. I can't work. More accurately, no-one will employ me.

My husband Dave is my carer and has to support us financially whilst coping with the trauma my illness brings into our lives and the lives of our children. Partners like Dave, who are carers too, often need to take lower paying jobs to look after us, jobs where they can work 9 to 5 and get time off at very short notice. Their careers suffer too. 

I've lost count of the times people have urged him to give up work too, begged him to stop stretching himself so thin. Dave has had two breakdowns trying to hold our family together, but for him, working is the most important thing he can do for us. It gives him pride and it stops us all from feeling like total and utter failures. 

For my family (and DWP estimates show that another 700,000 families like mine will be affected) the impact of losing that £388.45 a month will be devastating. We already live below the official poverty line and can't pay our bills. 

Soon we will have no savings left and taking away £4,661 a year from us will mean we lose everything. As I mentioned, it is three times more than higher rate tax payers will lose in child benefit yet this is a cut that will affect some of the poorest households in Britain.

My family would end up costing the state 5 times more in total than we do now (around 26,000 a year) just because it will force us to give up on the idea of work. We never wanted it to be that way. We wanted to remain a working family. We wanted to pay our way, but the assessments failed us and successive "policies" failed us and now the cuts will fail us. This one policy alone - time limiting ESA for working couples or families  -will fail us so spectacularly that it will bankrupt us. We will become entirely dependent on the state for everything.

That's why our partners often keep working, despite it being 100 times harder than giving up. We don't want to become 100% dependent on the state. 

Remember, this cut ONLY affects WORKING couples or families who have had the misfortune of someone becoming too ill to work.  It is a disincentive to work that goes against everything the coalition says they want to achieve. 
I urge all politicians from every political party to reconsider time limiting ESA. 

** Please help me by sending this to your MP here
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As ever, the Broken of Britain have a wealth of great information and advice on the next steps here :


  1. Well done, so very true. The condems are showing a real lack of 'joined up thinking'

  2. This is absolutely disgraceful. I had a similar problem when my gardening business collapsed, being self-employed I wasn't entitled to anything because I had 'paid no tax on my profits'. That was because I hadn't made any profit.I had though been paying NI all the time and tax on my profits for 35 years up until two years ago! I am not a supporter of violence but I am so angry with the double standards in this country I want to riot. By the way my business collapsed in 2008, because of the banks. No sanctions there then. So punish the poor.

  3. Quite right Sue. Your making a point I keep making. Many of us worked and paid National insurance. The operative word is INSURANCE. Imagine if someone stole your car and your insurance company turned round and refused to pay out and said they'd decided that although you bought the insurance to cover you for a year they had decided this was not sustainable so although the insurance had originally covered you for a year they had decided that six months was long enough and it was now 9 months into the policy. You would be able to sue them.

    I worked for 25 years, I paid tax and National Insurance and was happy to do so. I know that it was in my interest, that if anything happened to me then because I was paying NI the government would look after me. I also knew that people who might never have worked would benefit but I was happy at that indeed, it made me feel good knowing that I might be helping others. I never once complained about the tax an NI I paid.

    I also paid into the pension fund, I could have done with the money, I was always in low paid work, the most I ever took home in a year was. £8320. Yes, thats right £8320. Of course that was after tax NI and my pension was deducted. But I kept paying into the pension because I thought it would help once I either retired from Old Age or if illness struck. However I soon discovered after my work pensioned me off through ill health that the pension was a barrier to to help. The pension has actually lost me money. So here I am stil paying tax because I have a pension, still saving the government money because I have a pension and now the government are telling me that they want to take what little they do give me away.

    There was a Western on TV back in the 1970's called Alias Smith and Jones. At the start in the credits the pair of outlaws were offered a deal by the states governor. The two outlaws always said "Call that a good deal" Well Mr Duncan Smith 2Call that a good deal

  4. I totally agree Sue. This seems a bizarre plan.

    I think generally the whole welfare approach of demanding people go through all their savings before they can receive any help is just silly.

    Decapitalising people who are already in a bad economic position is just stupid. It takes away people's security, it damages their chances of re-establishing economic security and making themselves independent of the state again, and you just end up paying them welfare anyway once they've gone through their savings.

    Also its massively slanted towards people who own homes/have pensions and against people who rent. You can own a £1 million house and pass the means test, and you can have £16,000 in the bank and rent and fail the means test. It's absolutely barmy.

    Obviously it makes sense to have some cut-off point where people are required to use their savings rather than relying on welfare, but it should be massively higher and not slanted so horrendously against people who don't own their own home.

  5. Sorry, that's me going off on a tangent slightly. Reading the article again you're mainly talking about people losing ESA because one partner has an income rather than having savings. This is also a ridiculous plan.

  6. I had, until recently, been receiving Income-based ESA. My partner became unemployed &, upon notifying the change of circumstances, an error (theirs) was revealed &, now he has returned to work (part time earning £102 p/w) my ESA has been suspended pending a rethink. I have been told I don't qualify for Contribution-based ESA as I had the temerity to care for my Autistic son as opposed to working. I have progressive MS, 'passed' the medical (oh, & I have to go through that again as I received another Limited Capacity for Work form only last week!)but, it seems, I will receive NOTHING for my troubles.

    So, I'm 'ill enough' to get £0 to squander on my hedonisitc lifestyle (!) in return for over 2 decades of caring & educating my son. I am worth NOTHING.

  7. Very true. I was born with dislocated hips, had masses of surgery. As I got into my teen years I was well, fit and healthy, I joined the navy, had numerous other jobs and eventually had my children. Settled with my husband, we bought a house, my hips began getting painful, then the surgery began again. Now I am in daily pain, have a house and two children to care for, am trying to study for a degree so hopefully I can go back to work. When my time limit for ESA hits we will loose approx £400 a month, we will have to sell our house, and the car, which will leave me housebound! I will be in and out of hospital for the rest of my life, I really wish I had never been born with an illness, but I was, and now I feel that this government is punishing me for the misfortune of being born with health problems.

  8. One point of information - it's not just working households, it's those with savings as well. Right now, if you have no earners in the household, but have enough savings (through prudence and good financial management), but have made sufficient NI contributions, you can get your ESA contributions-based instead, and still get the help, reducing the degree to which you must drain those savings to live. In the same way, you get no Council Tax or Housing benefits. So people will be penalised for saving - as they currently are for income-related (and don't get me started on that).

  9. Sam - You're right and I have a post planned on this and other shocking stats tomorrow.
    You're not the first to (quite rightly) point this out today.
    It's frustrating sometimes to only be able to fit so much into one blog post, but tomorrow will be just as shocking and I plan to keep them coming all week!

  10. sue when does this come into effect do you know. Also it has to clear the house of commons and lords don't forget ?

  11. The whole welfare bill is a nightmare, we all have our individual circumstances but what we have in common is that most of us seem to lose out. I am single and on IB, I am lucky that I own my own home paid in full just before I lost my job because I suspected that at some point I would no longer able to work and the one thing I wanted more than anything was a stable roof over my head. I did that by not going out, never going on holiday or having a modern car. I don't know if I did the right thing. My IB takes no account of my household costs, I worked out last night that 40% of my weekly £100 approx goes on household bills & insurance. I can't turn the heating down any more next winter, my thermostat is never above 17degrees. If I rented, the landlord would be responsible for maintenance paid for from my rent. I had to borrow £1000 last year to replace my central heating boiler. My kitchen is 30yrs old, my bathroom not much newer, the decor is mid 90's, my roof needs at least £1000 spent on it before next winter. I was working out my budget because i'm sick with worry that i'll be moved onto JSA under the new system. If that happens, the only thing I can imagine will happen is that I sell my house, the money won't last forever it's not worth much. And then as a single person i'll be in the worst rented accommodation available costing the taxpayer more than I ever did before. I don't usually feel sorry for myself, but I cried a lot last night.

  12. P.S. When I said household costs, I meant fixed property costs, fuel, water, c. tax, insurance, telephone line. Not - maintenance, food, TV licence etc.

  13. Mick i know how you feel and were all in the same boat at least we are in it together unlike the conservative front bench who would never even get in your boat
    The public got sucked in big time by a big talker David Cameron at the last election the public overall would have never voted them in and if it hadn't been for nick clegg and his party joining up with them on a re run of the election we would still be with labour
    nick clegg and his party are finished which he throughly deserves

    The conservatives at the next election in 2015 should also be out of office i say should because there are a lot of conservative ideas in the labour party and the haves in this country may just out number the have not's and think we better stay as we are which will allow the conservatives back in

  14. The Lib Dem policy of time limiting ESA will encourage claimants to work. Those who cannot work can beg for food parcels:

    1. No wonder you were too cowardly to leave your name, mister Anonymous. When you fall ill, I hope you have a future plan worked out that will pay your bills, support your family and put a meal on the table, because if not you will be an "idle scrounger" like the rest of us and have to beg in the streets.

  15. Prime Minister David Cameron has said there are "severe concerns" for a number of British nationals after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

    if you believe that you'll believe anything

  16. Sue, surely you should be in receipt of DLA?

    I'm so confused about all these changes, having been on DLA (highest level care component with premiums for a pre-existing condition - just been preliminary diagnosed with a severe form of Crohn's last Thursday on top of this - yet I do not understand all these changes to the system.

    I've also written to Maria Miller, just before the last submissions were allowed and have had not received as much as "Your email has been received."

    I had to go through ATOS last summer and it was hellish. My consultants' notes were not referred to; the nurse (I asked his medical qualifications) didn't know what severe hypertension was! I asked him to read the huge form I'd filled in, my medical records and just got a blank stare.

    I 'phoned DWP - they were horrified that I had to go through such a thing in my condition, and got in touch with me two days later telling me not to expect a "test" for many years.

    Suddenly, this has all turned upside-down and to be honest, I'm f***ing scared, too tired to fight anymore.

    Your blog has been a great help to me, and my friends and carers.

    Yet I feel powerless. I write, email the government yet I am ignored.

    There must be something we can all do - whether we are ill or in so many cases, caring for someone incapacitated.

    We have no voice; when we shout it's treated as a whisper on a breeze.

    Surely someone can make their voice ring clear and be heard.

    Kind thoughts.

  17. John - I do qualify for DLA, but don't like to claim it.
    The problem with a "variable" condition is that when you're having a better phase, you feel like a fraud, but when you're really sick, you don't have the fight to claim it.

  18. Last chance to stop the ESA test!


    Work and Pensions Committee
    Select Committee Announcement
    Inquiry into Migration from Incapacity Benefits to Employment and Support Allowance
    The outcome of the migration process and the different paths taken by the various client groups: those moved to Jobseeker’s Allowance, including the support provided to find work and the impact of the labour market on employment prospects; those found fit for work who may be entitled to no further benefits; those placed in the Work Related Activity Group of the ESA, including the likely impact of the Department’s decision to time-limit contribution-based ESA to a year; and those placed in the Support Group.
    The deadline for written evidence is 14 April 2011.

    Public Bill Committees - Scrutiny Unit
    Room G10, 7 Millbank
    House of Commons London SW1A 0AA
    Tel 020 7219 8387 Fax 020 7219 8381 Email Website
    Call for written evidence:
    Do you have relevant expertise and experience or a special interest in the Government’s Welfare Reform Bill?
    If so, you can submit your views in writing to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee which is going to consider this Bill.
    · time-limiting the payment of contributory Employment and Support Allowance to twelve months;
    The Committee is able to receive written evidence from Wednesday 9 March, when the Bill has passed the Second Reading Stage; it will stop receiving written evidence at the end of the Committee stage on Thursday 10 May. The sooner you send in your submission, the more time the Committee will have to take it into consideration. The Public Bill Committee is expected to meet for the first time on Tuesday 22 March.


    Write or email your MP!

    Protest online!

    March for May 11th

  21. I am at the end of my tether, my husband is self employed( not very much money coming in well roughly £9000 pa we are paying ourselves)and I have had renal failure since I was 6 years old.
    and although I am transplanted, I still have a raft of medical problems, I am trying to keep hold of a dodgy 18 year old kidney transplant, as if this fails I have very little chance of any more treatment, due to the fact that all my veins are shot, from years of treatments. So as you can see I am keen to stay away from stress! no such luck, after being re-tested 3 years ago, i was awarded zero points, it was only after months of fighting that I managed to secure my IB. And the rule I fought on has now been re worded so I do not think I will be able to claim.Both my husband and I have been mindful of our position we have no debt, we do not overspend, we only buy things we can afford, we have no children( as we thought this was a sensible course to take, I am not sure what to do? last time I failed to get any points, I was dumped off of IB, with no help, this government are saying people will be helped back to work, well I shall believe it when I see it!

  22. Would the person who wrote that last post consider submitting it to the ESA/IB enquiry?

    You just need to send it by private email with your name address and tel no.

    I'll put it in the format and send it to you for approval. Alternatively, you can do your own here if you'd rather :

    Please do consider it - your story is very valuable evidence and great exactly as it is.

  23. Hi
    Some really interesting comments here. My partner became disabled in June 2009. She is a university graduate and had not long started a promising position as a primary school teacher within a large state run school. Her dissability comes in the form of rare blood clot which now has permanantly blocked a major artery and so has impacted massively on her mobility. Her case is so rare it has already featured in 2 National medical journels and so far there has been no possible cure or medical intervention that can help her in any way. I have had to give up work to care for her as most days she is unable to do anything due to lack of mobility. She recieves the highest rate of mobility component (DLA) however she has been refused any care component (DLA) meaning I cannot claim carers allowance even though I take care of her needs around the clock. She recieves ESA also. I to am concerned about the new assesments etc being put into place. How can a medical nurse possibly asses her when her particular condition is extremely rare and the conditions side affects aren`t even known yet let alone understood. We have approached specialist consultants at Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield and London Hospitals and all have come back with a blank, not knowing of any treatment or cure. So if she is re-assesed by a nurse and gets kicked of ESA due to the fact that on occassions she can walk 10 yards and can pick up a phone, where would we be? Like others have posted here, as if we want to be in this position, claiming benefits? She worked her butt off at Uni to get a degree and had a teaching job she had always dreamed of since she was a young girl. I to would love to return to work, maybe part time so at least I could provide an income into our home but if I do they would starting taking money from her (ESA & Housing & Council Tax benefit). It also seems so unfair I get no help as carer when I am infact her carer. Its a crazy thing this benefits system. It seems to help those who dont need it yet fail those who really do. The way I see it is that untill cases are looked at individually then the system will continue to fail. Untill they stop classing people as couples and not individuals the system will continue to fail. And to summerise here`s a fact that may drive you to dispair. If you come into this country as an Immigrant couple, you are infact assesed individually and entitled to benefits individually due to your human rights. God I love this country :) From a frustrated couple, seemingly ruined at the age of 26.

  24. This is disability discrimination and I am quite suprised that the ministers for disability and equalities have not voiced their opinions. The assessment itself is "in my view" designed as a deterant against people with disabilities from claiming as the burocratic system will challenge even the brightest of disabled people. The government wreaks of this non caring shamefull betrayal of a promise that said that this government would protect us in our hour of need if we paid into a national insurance sytsem. Ask yourself why the public are not taking the failure to fulfill a promisary contract through the high courts.. I believe the system was drawn up in haste and not well thought out. "Scameron" as he is now known is supposed to be christian in his beliefs. So far all he has done is feather his own and his parties nests and have shown that his reputation for ruthlessness will rise above those of other world leaders that have been castigated for less... This Government has no morality..

  25. Letters are going out to over 92,000 ESA claiamnts next week - see

  26. Hi everyone.
    In 2007 i was diagnosed with relapse remitting multiple sclerosis and had to give up work. I had my own taxi business, only me but it was all mine. I lost that. I cant pass the medical needed to acquire another hackney licence. So i claimed incapacity benefit and dla, high rate mobility and medium rate care. i've been on the ib for so long now i'm at the maximum payout.
    I have just met the lovliest woman and we are engaged and planning on buying a home with the proceeds of her financial settlement from her previous marriage. Problem is, she works, has a very good job & with this esa chances are i will lose all my benefits. there is no way she can afford to pay for the mortgage plus all the bills on her own so looks like we will end up with nothing. all because of my disability. i have a car on motability via the dla which more than likely we will lose. this government is no better than the bnp. if i could work i would gladly but i have no feeling in my fingertips or anywhere else on my arms or legs. What am i supposed to do? i cant hold a decent conversation as i get confused so easily now. even going on the weekly shop if my partner leaves me for an instance i get severe panic attacks. i feel that maybe my partner should find herself a man who can work and i should end it all. least that way they cant screw me anymore :(

  27. i aree what a shambles

  28. Hi i aree with all thats been said if you have a partner you will be punished if you are a person who self enflicted drugs on themselves or you are dependant on alchoho you will keep the benefit the message the goverment are sending out is ditch the partner become drug or alchol dependant and we will look after you.

  29. What do the goverment think they are doing i thoght we were a caring country well i dont hold that opinion anymore.People who have worked contributed to the benefit systym are going to be below the poverty line having to rely on our partner to keep you when your 12 months runs out is outrages.The goverment need to liase with the DDA we should be protected not subjected.The comment above seems to have the right idea the goverment will look after you if your disability is self inflicted but if your illness or disability is through no fault of your own you dont stand a chance Its about time the polititions stopped looking through rose colored glasses supported and looked after the sick and disabled.

  30. There are a couple of errors here, I beleive.

    Firstly, contributions-based ESA will only be time limited if you are in the work-related activity group. Those in the support group will not be time limited.

    Secondly, it does not just affect claimants who are part of a couple - a single person can be prohibited from claiming income-related ESA by dint of having too much captial.

  31. As a serving member of the HM Forces I am disgusted and appalled at not only how my wife but how all of the people on here have/are being treated. My wife had worked all her adult life, holding down two jobs. Soon as our first child was born she didn't want hand-outs and as soon as she could she went back to work. Now she is too ill to work. The hoops we have had to jump through! Now to see that should this bill be passed she will lose her benefits,well is unbelievable Reading these posts NOT ONE of these people could ever be called a benefit scrounger and to be told after all your hard work and taxes you're going to lose your life line is crazy. This government (and governments before it)! have given millions of pounds away to other countries over the years, like India who can afford to run their own space program, but wont support a decent welfare system. If they want to save money try stop giving millions to these countries, why should the decent people on here suffer when there is money but it's not politically correct to divert it.

  32. Like a number here I am one who will be affected by this change and got the dreaded letter yesterday. I have a rare nerve disorder that I have managed to almost live with for the past 22 years. I gained a degree at night school and worked for the past 15 years or so.

    After being threatened with redundancy my condition escalated to a point were I could no longer work. We lost two thirds of our income and I am sure this had a huge affect upon my illness. Like you I have a great deal of medication to take and have to pay for this.

    It is my hope and intention to return to work when my condition goes back into remission and can be reasonably managed by drugs.

    My wife and I chose not to have children as I was terrified that there may be a genetic component to my desease. My wife will now have to support us both and the strain of the past couple of years have started to show.

    I just dont know what we like many others are going to do. I hate to say it but my wife would be better off if i just popped off, but my condition is not terminal it will just cause me chronic pain for the rest of my life. I love my wife very much and to see her trying to be strong for me and trying not to let me get worried is the most terrible part of my current situation...

  33. hello,

    my brother gave me the gift of life in 2010 nov,a new kidney,what a gift,its given me some more years for which i am gratfull.
    one problem,my brother didnt come out of te operation as he went in ,he suffered for his kindness,he has produced all the evidence needed to obtain esa,yet altos scored him nil points,we are now after 10 months at the final stage of appeal,the upper tribunal,his had no income since early nov 2011,they say claim jsa,wouldnt that be defeating the oject of appeal,and declaring yourself fully fit for work,problems do occur after donating,my story could put people off donating,it shouldnt..

  34. me again,

    iam sopposed to be enjoying my new kidney,but with this appeal going on,the stress i am suffering is nearly as bad as being on diaysis,why does an appeal take so long.