What does the new Government consultation mean for people with MS?

Last week the Government launched a consultation on its plan to improve employment support for those with chronic conditions. But what does this mean for people with MS? We got our Senior Policy Officer Laura on the case.   

The ‘Green Paper’ is a report that sets out the Government’s 10-year vision for helping people with chronic conditions – who can and want to – find and stay in work. It also includes other areas, such as health and changes to disability benefits.

Steps in the right direction

The Paper tells us that the Government plans to help employers support those with chronic conditions or disabilities in work. It will look at providing more information and guidance to help organisations support the needs of these employees.

These ideas could be a step in the right direction. Expanding existing schemes like Access to Work could also make a positive difference for those who need help staying in work.

The Government also wants to improve the laws surrounding Statutory Sick Pay. This is to encourage employers to have supportive conversations with employees who are off sick and provide phased returns to work.

Welfare: one to watch

The Government is planning to make changes to the support currently available for those who are unable to work. It is currently consulting on what improvements it can make to the assessment for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for ESA has so far failed to accurately assess conditions with fluctuating symptoms like MS. Since it was introduced, it hasn’t recognised the barriers that they pose to employment.

We hope this consultation is an opportunity to make sure WCA makes sense for people with MS. 

Concerns for the future

However, we’re concerned about some of the suggested changes to ESA. These changes could mean that people with MS in the support group might have to prepare to return to work before they are ready.

Next year, new measures will reduce support for new ESA claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG). People in this group could lose almost £30 per week.

The consultation sets out a bigger package of support for these people, including offering work experience placements and specialist medical advice to help Jobcentre staff. We have doubts as to whether this new support will be enough to replace the loss of vital financial support from ESA.

We will keep a close watch on these potential changes. And we’ll keep calling on the Government to protect this financial support for those who are unable to work.

What next?

The Government wants this to be the start of a wide-ranging conversation with charities and people with chronic conditions to hear their feedback. We will be responding to the consultation and feeding in at every stage

We want a system where everyone with MS has the support they need, both for people who can work and people who can’t.

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