Did Tories cut ESA because of a lie – or because they hate the sick and disabled?

Yes, him and not the new one: Iain Duncan Smith was still in charge when the plan went through Parliament to cut ESA by £30 for people in the WRAG. If anybody briefed Conservative MPs with lies, it seems likely he had something to do with it.

Yes, him and not the new one: Iain Duncan Smith was still in charge when the plan went through Parliament to cut ESA by £30 for people in the WRAG. If anybody briefed Conservative MPs with lies, it seems likely he had something to do with it.

Remember when the new Work and Pensions secretary, Stephen Crabb, wrote on his Facebook page, “A decision was taken by MPs to change the benefit awarded to a specific group of people who receive Employment Support Allowance. These people are in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and they do have a disability or illness but are able to work”?

You should – This Blog only reported it yesterday (March 21).

Later that same day we found out about Sir Alan Haselhurst, who justified his decision to support the ESA cut for people in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) with this: “It’s motivated by the desire to get more people back into work who are capable of doing some form of work. We should be making a more active effort to make sure that there’s something they are able to do.”

Since then, Johnny Mercer’s name has been added to this list. He’s the MP for Plymouth Moor View, apparently. Also Andrew Griffiths, MP for Burton and Uttoxeter. These are all Conservatives.

Today it occurred to This Writer – and others on the social media – that the correlation between these two comments is not likely to be coincidence.

It is as if Conservative MPs were given a briefing in which they were told people in the WRAG were able to work.

If so, it is an outrage.

It would be contempt of Parliament on a level that puts Mike Ashley to shame – deliberately misleading MPs, not just on a point of information, but with an intention that they would support a cut of nearly one-third to the income of some of the UK’s most vulnerable citizens.

Allow me to reiterate:

People on ESA are, by definition, not capable of work.

They aren’t on the benefit because their illness or disability is making it hard for them to find a job; they’re on it because they are too unwell to work. Many of them never return to work – because the mortality rate is three times the national average.

The rules are perfectly clear. Being in the WRAG means the claimant is expected to be well enough to work within a year of their claim starting – but it doesn’t mean they can work now.

If that was possible, they would be on Jobseeker’s Allowance, not ESA.

These facts are well known to everybody who works at the DWP – including the Tory Secretary of State who runs it (Iain Duncan Smith, at the time).

So, where did all these MPs get their information that people in the WRAG can work?

Were they briefed to this effect, by DWP ministers committing contempt of Parliament?

Or, worse still, did they simply not care and assumed it, because the group’s title includes the word ‘work’? This can only mean they never bothered to look into the facts of the matter and simply saw this as a chance to inflict grave suffering on the sick and disabled.

Those are the choices.

So let’s ask our Tory MPs – those of us who have one:

Did you cut ESA by a third because you were misinformed, or did you do it because you hate the sick and disabled?

And, if you were misinformed, will the culprits be prosecuted for contempt of Parliament and another vote taken – with the correct information made available to MPs?

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39 thoughts on “Did Tories cut ESA because of a lie – or because they hate the sick and disabled?

  1. billkruse

    I think it’s just a case of they do what they’re told. That’s how government works and what it is. They get told vote for this, vote for that, and like good little doggies, they do.

  2. Mags

    This may explain my local MP Gordon Henderson’s response to someone who questioned his voting for the £30 a week cut…”The vote to which you refer was on a Government proposal to reduce the level of ESA for those disabled people who are considered able to work and are actively seeking work to the same amount given to all other people who are job seekers. I should make clear that the change does not affect any current claimants, does not affect any other disability benefit payments and does not reduce the level of ESA currently paid to able bodied people. Of course, the Government recognized that disabled people who are looking for work need help with the additional costs involved, such as transport, and has made funds available to provide that help.”

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      “ESA currently paid to able bodied people”? What a contradiction in terms. Has anyone pointed out that ESA is never paid to able-bodied people?

      1. Mags

        A few, but he hasn’t responded further. He seems to ‘cherry-pick’ the questions that he would like to answer, and doesn’t seem open to debate.

  3. Nick

    only a fool mike would believe anything a conservative mp even say’s and that is the most damaging of all aspects of the uk today

    because if you cant trust a mp in what he says that means all news is false be it on the tv or wherever this in turn keeps the majority of people in the dark so that if you ever ask them a question you get the vague look and “i dont know”

  4. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7)

    Mike, I don’t believe that the Tories were duped into voting for the cuts. An enraged Tory MP, Heidi Allen, did, after all, fire a dramatic ‘warning shot’ to her government as she vowed to fight her own party’s cuts to disability support. And you reported that Lord Low of Dalston had accused the government whips of “working overtime last Wednesday night in the House of Commons, going round handing out bribes and blandishments like there was no tomorrow”. So there must have been some resistance from the Tory ranks.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Your evidence certainly shows that some Tories knew the score. But it seems at least three were happy to be led by the nose – in the wrong direction.

  5. Bou

    If the comments feom one lady MP this morning are anything to go by; they voted for the cuts because they were bribed into it by IDS.


    Whatever the brief (if there was one!!!) be it correct or incorrect description of what WRAG really is: surely it is the DUTY of MPS to investigate the information on an issue they are expected to VOTE on.
    Two seconds on the DWP Gov.uk site and they would see what WRAG is.
    In other words a sickness benefit.

    1. SJ

      To me, the gov.uk pages on ESA are vague enough that it’s not clear the WRAG is for people who aren’t expected to work. They only seem to be clear about the support group being for people who are severely limited.

  7. Lynn Dye

    Mike, I wrote to my Tory MP, Mark Prisk as soon as I saw he had voted for the cut to ESA. This was a week before the budget, and this was part of his response.

    ” The record employment levels and strong jobs growth in recent years have benefitted many, but these benefits have yet to reach those on ESA. While 1 in 5 JSA claimants move off benefit every month, this is true of just 1 in 100 of ESA WRAG claimants. Those with health conditions and disabilities deserve better than this.”

    I sent a reply pointing out that these people were ill, beside other comments and received no further reply.

  8. John

    This is probably a daft question, but although you expect, Mike, for individuals to check their own MPs voting records, I hope that you’re NOT going to let this one rest.

  9. hilary772013

    Reply from DWP regarding Cuts to ESA, no wonder they believe their own Bu**S**t

    Government responded:

    We are committed to providing the right support to those with health conditions and disabilities. This change only affects new claims from April 2017 and no current claimants will be cash losers.

    In the Summer Budget 2015, we announced that, from April 2017, new Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants who are placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) will receive the same rate of benefit as those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).

    This change only affects new claims made after that date and there will be no cash losers among those who are already in receipt of ESA. This reform affects those with limited capability for work. Those with the most severe work-limiting health conditions and disabilities, who are placed in the Support Group, will be completely unaffected by these changes.

    The reason for implementing this reform is clear. The current system fails to provide the right support to help those with health conditions and disabilities towards and into work, and acts to trap people on welfare. We are committed to ensuring that people have the best support possible, and that is what these changes are about.

    The recent record employment levels have benefitted many but have yet to reach those on ESA. It is important to remember that whilst 1 in 5 JSA claimants move off benefit every month, only 1 in 100 of ESA WRAG claimants does so. Those with health conditions and disabilities deserve better than this.

    In addition to providing financial security for individuals, work often has a profound effect on people’s life chances and it is right that this Government does everything it can to provide better support to get people into work. More than three-fifths (61 per cent) of those in the ESA WRAG say they want to work – and there is a large body of evidence showing that work is generally good for physical and mental wellbeing.

    This change enables us to recycle money into providing practical support that will make a significant difference to the life chances of those in the WRAG. This new funding will be worth £60 million in 2017/18 rising to £100 million in 2020/21 and will support those with limited capability for work to move towards and into suitable employment.

    As set out in the Budget 2016, the nature of this support is being influenced by a Taskforce of disability charities, employers, think tanks, provider representatives and local authorities. Furthermore, we are providing a further £15 million for the Jobcentre Plus Flexible Support Fund in 2017-18 to help claimants who have limited capability for work with the extra costs that can be involved in moving closer to the labour market and into work.

    These changes are part of a wider reform to help support more disabled people and those with health conditions work and to remain in work. Over the coming year we will build the progress we have made in partnership with disabled people, their representatives, and healthcare professionals, using their insights to understand how the welfare system can work better with the health and social care systems.

    Our reforms are aimed at improving the quality of life of those in greatest need. Again, it is worth noting that we spend around £50 billion every year on benefits to support people with disabilities or health conditions, which represents over 6 per cent of all Government spending. We are proud of that commitment and we are determined to ensure that those most in need continue to receive the support they require.

    Department of Work and Pensions

  10. robertfeather

    n excellent summary, leading straight from yesterday’s article, to which I posted a substantial response (see comments).

    Given that one of the first questions answered by the new Minister, Stephen Crabb, proved that he had not the faintest glimmer of understanding of what ESA was for, or how the claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) are chosen, it suggests that he had been given incorrect information.

    Was that deliberate?
    Has there been a sustained campaign, by the Prime Minister, IDS, Chancellor, the Cabinet, and/or Conservative HQ, to feed lies to the backbench constituency MPs, to make them believe that what they were voting for was a reduction in undeserved benefits, to people who were ‘capable of work, but just lazy’?
    Rather than what they *actually* ended up voting for, which was a reduction in essential support, for people already assessed, by the Government’s own tight standards, as UNABLE to work?

    Civil rights groups have been bombarding Conservative MPs with demands for an explanation of their actions, and social media has been ablaze with posts, naming and shaming the MPs who voted for the cuts.
    This has caused many of them to go crying and bleating, that they are being ‘bullied’, rather than what is actually happening, which is them being called to account by their employers (us), over accusations of gross misconduct.

    Many of these MPs are patrons of disability charities, or have been photographed at fundraisers, and are determined to tell us that the ‘hounding’ is wrong, that they ‘love’ the sick and disabled, that they want to support them, and are dismayed at being thrown out of the charities they got free publicity from. It’s SO UNFAIR!

    Sir Alan Haselhurst seems to believe he voted for the exact opposite of what was in the Bill. Others probably believe that, too.
    Are they all liars? Hypocrites?
    It’s tempting to think so; cynicism comes easy these days.

    But most of us, in our personal lives, know many Conservative voters, of the ‘true believer’ type, or the casual ‘I vote the same way as my parents’; we live near them, we work with them, some us may even be related to them.
    And it’s clear from the conversations we have with them, or overhear, that they believe as those MPs do, that cuts to the benefits system are essential, and are only affecting the lazy, the malingerers, the dodgers, the scroungers, and the cheats.
    And they are getting that message, drip-fed to them every day, by Conservative HQ, and their accomplices in the media.
    They’re not all evil; most of them are misinformed.

    And I’m willing to entertain the possibility that the same applies to some Conservative MPs.
    I can be generous; I can give the benefit of the doubt, especially where it concerns a person with a record of working closely with disability charities, that they may not have intended to defecate all over their own CV, as they so blatantly did, since coming to power.

    They’re still bloody idiots, for trotting to the voting chamber like a herd of sheep, and blindly voting along with the party line, without making even a cursory two-minute fact-check, which would have shown them that all the protestors were absolutely right, and that benefit claimants have been consistently lied about, for decades.

    And I would tell these MPs, that if they are upset, frightened and angry, about being named and shamed, about having their reputations dragged through the mud, all over social media, about the torrent of letters and email they have received, since voting to destroy the lives of vulnerable people?
    They should direct that anger and blame straight where it belongs:
    At the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, and the Cabinet, who lied to them, to trick them into voting for these disgusting attacks, to steal money from the sick and the dying, to give bribes to Tory donors.

  11. NMac

    They tell lies and they hate the disabled, the poor, the unemployed, the sick, ordinary working people, in fact everyone who isn’t one of them and now they even hate each other. Tories are just full of hatred and division.

  12. mohandeer

    Yvette Cooper was Health Sec. when the Work Capability Assessments were brought in. The assessments were not intended to highlight how the effect of someone’s disabilities made it impossible for them to work, but were devised solely for the purpose of proving that someone with disabilities “could possibly do some work”. It did not take into account that the disabled person could not reliably be available at set times, set hours or even set days to work. Many of the disabled in WRAG are unable to commit to any of these requirements and would not, therefore, be available for work. Many if not most, have disabilities that will not “get better”, only worse, so they will not be working within the year. Most will be sanctioned for not being able to attend the workshops and some will be forced out of the WRAG but unable to qualify for JSA because they are not “fit for work”. Time to go back to Yvette Cooper and ask her what she thought she was playing at and why did she even agree to such an irresponsible policy.

      1. Nick

        so do i mike

        the main trouble with mp’s they have no one like myself that is able to give them the FULL picture of a problem

        my daughter finds this all the time working with many mp’s and lords’ they come up with all sorts of ideas on paper that look good but are in reality full of holes because they have very little experiences if any on what being long term sick or disabled is like

        what should have been straight forward in welfare reform has ended in a great mess

        mrs thatcher when she retired could have done more when she become long term ill as she could have made comments that this illness business was not at all good by a long shot

        instead she kept silent whilst receiving excellent 24 hour care at a great NHS cost

        the only person who can fix the welfare reform is a person who for many years understands what sick and disabled means and how it leaves one feeling throughout the day

        for most people it will you tired at best and tired and nauseous with various amounts of pain and depression at worse

        That is what long term sickness and disability does and for those
        those with MS/ MND/ PARKINSONS /demethia/ mental health/cancer etc should never be made to feel they are a burden on society as they know that already and to keep talking to them like the way mp’s do is just criminal

      2. SJ

        Labour expected 90% of people entitled to incapacity benefits to go into the WRAG and be able to do some work when they designed ESA (if I remember correctly). They were wrong, and I believe somebody from the Labour Party apologised for ESA, but unfortunately I can’t remember who or when that was.

  13. Norma Roberts

    My last WCA, in 2013, gave a prognosis of “not expected to be able to work for at least 3 years”, yet I am in the WRAG. I have been in the WRAG now since 2011, prior to that, I was on long term incapacity benefit for 11 years. Whilst I have been in the WRAG I have had one appointment at the job centre, one in 5 years! It is, and always has been, just a money saving exercise. I was on contribution based ESA, but, since 2012, have been on income based, and am now means tested, so my works, ill health, early retirement, pension is deducted from my ESA. ALL about the money!

  14. Robert Cullen

    We have a cruel plastic govt based on lies and more lies.As more lies are unravelled im sure some illegalities in the methods used will crop up.Ive been through an ATOS examination twice and i know they tell lies about claimants and not fit for purpose.

  15. Joan Edington

    I’ve e-mailed our un-beloved Secretary of State, Fluffy Mundell, asking him whether he was taken in by this lie or if he should be ashamed of himself. I don’t anticipate an answer any time soon since he prefers to spend his time posting to Facebook about Carol Vorderman parties, local Spar shops, Burns Club wreath-layings etc. He also like trips abroad to Malawi to lighten the mood.

  16. Lynn Dye

    Mike, this may be of interest.

    I have just noticed Priti Patel’s speech on 2nd March on the House of Commons website. It is obviously where Mark Prisk quoted from, as some sentences are practically word for word.

    “We have experienced record employment levels and strong jobs growth over the past few years, but the benefits have bypassed the majority of those who are stuck on ESA. Only one in 100 ESA claimants in the WRAG moves off benefits each month, compared with one in five jobseeker’s allowance claimants.

    2 Mar 2016 : Column 1045

    That cannot be right, and the Government believe that people with health conditions and disabilities deserve better.”

    This was the mantra being used on the day to encourage MP’s to vote for cuts – all on the pretence that ESA claimants are fit for work. At least that is the way I read it.


  17. SJ

    This is exactly what I want to know, because MP Andrew Percy apparently said the same thing in a letter to one of his constituents, yet he was the most outspoken one about the PIP cuts saying they were too much for people unable to work (when PIP is unrelated to work status). I think they were misinformed when they voted to cut ESA WRAG. Now govt have said they’re not going to debate reversing the ESA cut following the petition because it’s already been debated. It stinks. (I posted this on Facebook after someone shared this post.)

  18. Spoonydoc

    Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield said the same thing in a particularly unpleasant statement saying some disabled people were taking the British taxpayer for a ride.
    He says a lot of nasty stuff (see link), but the really relevant part is this:
    “So from 2017, if unfortunately someone becomes disabled, an independent medical team will assess that person. If they believe someone is capable of work, they will receive the same amount of money as Job Seekers Allowance just like everyone else – which is less than full disability benefit – to encourage them to seek work.”


    Then there is Andover MP Kit Malthouse who is quoted in the local paper:
    “I’m disappointed at the misinformation and scaremongering about the changes. There will be no change for people already claiming ESA. There will also be no change for those people who are unable to work. The changes only affect new claimants from April 2017 in the Work Related Activity Group.”
    Note the “no change for those people unable to work”, in other words those affected CAN work.


  19. John

    If I’m getting this right, I understand that the biggest problem Gideon faces (which he hasn’t answered yet, I don’t think), is something which was asked by at least two MPs in the HoC (from Lab AND the SNP?), and was simply this, if he didn’t NEED to cut support to disabled people, WHY did he try and get away with it in the first place?

  20. mrmarcpc

    All tories hate people that they consider beneath them, regardless of class, they even hate the middle classes, even though they say they like them, they really don’t, they hate the poor, the sick, people volunteering and/or working, they hate everyone who’s not posh, rich, inbred, lazy and pompous like them!

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