Sunday, 8 January 2012

Six days to get rid of the 12 month time limit to ESA

I know we're all a tad busy ;) 

But on 11th Jan, the other campaign we fought so very, very hard will see a vote in the Lords. Our brilliant supporter Caron over at Caron's Musings wrote this so that I could cross post it - knowing how busy I would be with the DLA campaign. 

In all the excitement, do see if you can manage to do any of the things Caron put together for us. In particular, please contact Lib Dem peers and remind them how vital it is to us that they keep their promise and vote against time limiting ESA. If they cannot rebel, we beg them to abstain. 

Next Wednesday, 11th January, the House of Lords will be debating the Welfare Reform Bill. It's expected that the controversial clause time limiting contributory Employment and Support Allowance to one year for those in the Work Related Activity Group, those people who are judged to have a limited capacity to work. This change does not affect the sickest and most disabled people in the Support Group.

At the moment, if you receive contributory ESA (based on your NI contributions), you get around £90 a week and are eligible for that until you reach State Pension age. Now, you will lose your entitlement to it after a year. So, if you work for 40 years and pay tax and NI for all that time, you will only, when you need it most, get a year's support if the Government plans become law. This will take effect in just 3 months' time.

That means that people who are too ill to work will effectively have to rely on their families to support them. Being ill is a pretty expensive business - if you need to have regular medical treatment there's transport costs affected with that. Also if your mobility is affected, you will need your house to be warmer. Not want. Need.

I think depriving sick people of the support they get from the State based on an arbitrary time limit is wrong. It flies in the face of everything I believe as a liberal in terms of looking at the person and what they need.

Most people, thankfully, do recover from illness within a year but some don't. It certainly took me two years after contracting Glandular Fever to feel remotely human again and it's left me with continuing health problems. Luckily I didn't need to claim ESA, but if I had, I am fairly sure I'd have had problems proving eligibility because of the fluctuating nature of the condition. If Sue Marsh, who suffers from really severe bowel disease, has trouble convincing the authorities that she's ill, then we have to suspect that the system is very flawed. Sue isn't my only example. Four years of working as an MP's caseworker provided me with many examples of the wrong decisions being taken and overturned after a lengthy and stressful appeals process.

The best argument I've heard against the time limit was put forward by Ken Reed, the new Chair of RNIB Scotland. He and I were speakers at a fringe meeting on welfare reform chaired by Secretary of State for Scotland Mike Moore at the Scottish Lib Dems' Autumn conference. Ken said that if you became blind as the result of an accident today, it would take a year just to get used to being blind, let alone being ready to get back into the labour market.

At our Federal Conference last Autumn, we passed a motion which called upon "Liberal Democrats in Government to oppose an arbitrary time limit on how long claimants can claim Contributory ESA". To me, that means that our people in the Lords should vote against the time limit. The views of Conference are pretty unequivocal and the motion was passed with very little opposition.

If you haven't done so already, please get in touch with Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords. A full list is here. Tell them briefly why you think this time limit needs to go.

Bear in mind that previous votes on the Welfare Reform Bill, including the one where 14 Lib Dem peers defeated an element of the Housing Benefit proposals, have been very, very close. It is possible for this vote to be won. We members can encourage that process so I would urge you all, again, to write to as many peers as you can, to give them an indication of the strength of feeling in the party. Please feel free to copy and paste this post into e-mails, tweet it, share on Facebook and spread the word in as many ways as you can think.

We don't have long, but if we don't get rid of this time limit, sick people will start to suffer in less than 3 months' time. That should be enough motivation for us to devote some time to this today.


  1. Is there a way of contacting Lords MPs by email or facebook?


    pick a few or do a lot, don't forget to put commas in between if you are emailing more than one!!

  3. & here is MORE

  4. I've emailed a letter to the above people outlining how this could tear my family apart. i hope one of them has some compassion in them.

  5. Here's that same list of addresses with commas added, all ready for copy/pasting:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  6. why cant we email the members of the house of lords? there are only physical addressess on the list!

  7. ooops didnt read above comments first lol.
    thanks for the email addressess xx

  8. oops didnt read the above comments first, thanks for the email addressess

  9. I've sent an e.mail to all of the peers mentioned in the posts above. However, for information, I also forwarded my e.mail to my local Lib Dem MP (Steve Webb) and I thought you might be interested in his reply:

    Dear Mrs *******

    Thank you for your e-mail with your concerns regarding ESA. I hope that I can offer some reassurance.

    The decision to time limit contributory ESA for certain groups of recipients was not taken lightly but was part of a package of savings made by the DWP as part of its contribution to reducing the very large budget deficit.

    However, whilst savings had to be made, we were keen to make sure that the most vulnerable groups were protected.

    In the case of ESA, there are two important exceptions to the time limit:

    a) those who are the most disabled (those in the ‘Support’ group) are not subject to a time limit;
    b) those who have the lowest household incomes continue to be entitled on an ongoing basis to income-related ESA;

    For those whose benefit does run out after a year, the Government has indicated that there will be fast-track access into the tailored support offered by the ‘Work Programme’, where providers do not get paid unless they help someone into sustained paid work.

    We will obviously reflect on the vote at the Lib Dem conference to see if there is any more that can be done to limit the impact of these changes, though the overall fiscal position is, if anything, worse than it was when these decisions were first taken.

    With best wishes,

    Steve Webb MP

    1. With regards to the Work Programme, I've been on it for a year now, and as far as I'm concerned it's a scam. It's not true to say the providers only get paid if they get someone into full time employment. They get paid on average £1400 for everyone unfortunate enough to be forced into this despicable con trick whether they get a job or not, otherwise the so called providers would'nt do it.
      It might have been more useful if the government had given me the £1400 to start up a business instead of making Emma Harrison richer.

    2. Remember everybody: if you send a round robin email to alot of people, include your own email address in the list of recipients - that way there's less chance of your email being marked as spam.

  10. I received a reply from 'Baroness Sally Hamwee' after I sent her an e.mail asking that she votes against time limiting ESA. This is what she said:

    This is to thank you for troubling to write. I am reading all the comments I am receiving (and am sorry my reply has to be in a rather impersonal form). The ESA is something that I know my colleagues who are closely involved in the Bill have identified as particularly difficult, and the proposals do trouble me – we will have to see how the Minister responds.

    Sally Hamwee

  11. Thank You .TO the welsh lord who defended proper speech about a first minister in a very hostile house even though the most of noble lords were sleeping. What is quorum I am told it must be a quarter of members awake