This Writer seems to recall the Conservative Government promising to leave the sick and disabled alone after bringing in the cut in ESA payments for people in the Work-Related Activity Group.
That’ll be another lie to add to the collection, then.
It’s possible they’ll try to wheedle their way around it by saying they’re not changing the amount of money payable to benefit claimants – but changing the conditions under which people receive the benefit will certainly have the same effect.
Fair enough, Scope has said disabled people need “expert, tailored employment support” – but has the Conservative government ever offered such a thing? No.
Damian Green’s comments echo those of former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, a man brave enough to go naked from the eyebrows upward, while leaving the effects of his policies shrouded in secrecy.
But the words still give his game away. He’s saying the sick should be put to work; why isn’t he saying they should be helped to find ways of earning their living? Perhaps you think that’s a quibble over semantics, but it isn’t – it could be the difference between finding a useful vocation and being forced to do something potentially fatal.
How many sick people will be forced into Workfare, if Mr Green has his way? Toiling full-time for their benefit while a nominated company takes all the profit? Worsening their health conditions instead of soothing them?
Mr Duncan Smith tried to take credit for the plan by saying he was working towards it when he resigned.
But then, he said it was intended to eliminate the “binary choice” between working and being on benefit, which is a lie.
He should know, better than anybody, that sickness benefit claimants have been able to take on “permitted work”.
It allows claimants to test their own capacity for doing some work and perhaps gain new skills, while earning up to £115.50 per week.
There’s a 15-hour-a-week, 52-week limit on the amount that can be done – unless a claimant is in the support group of ESA. People can do more than 15 hours per week on “supported permitted work”, and the 52-week limit is being removed from people in the WRAG from April 2017.
If the plan is to bring in genuine expert help for people doing this work, or considering it, then it might be worthwhile.
But I doubt it.
I note that Mr Duncan Smith tried to dismiss Employment Support Allowance as a Labour project that is “in real need of reform” – neglecting to admit that he spent nearly six years tinkering with it and only managed to reduce the death toll slightly.
ESA was indeed started by Labour – but it can more easily be identified with the Conservatives.
Like the Tories, it started bad and – like the Tories – it has grown worse.
A consultation on reforming the Work Capability Assessment will be announced on Monday.
Ministers want claimants to be assessed in a more “targeted and personalised” way to help more people find jobs.
The charity Scope, which had criticised the current assessment scheme, said it welcomed the planned changes.
It said disabled people needed “expert, tailored employment support”.
Both Employment Support Allowance, which is paid to more than two million people, and the assessment, were originally introduced by Labour and then expanded by the coalition government.
Mr Green said: “A disability or health condition should not dictate the path a person is able to take in life.
“No one wants a system where people are written off and forced to spend long periods of time on benefits when, actually, with the right support they could be getting back into work.
“The proposed changes… will focus on improving opportunities and raising aspirations while making sure those people who most need support from the government receive it.”
Former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who spearheaded the government’s welfare reforms for six years before resigning in March, said: “These proposals are directly taken from a full plan for reform that we at the DWP were close to completing before I resigned.
“The purpose was to get rid of the binary choice that you were fit for work or not fit for work. My plan covered all the areas announced today and went further in proposing some other positive changes.”
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