Disability benefits in the news

Published date: 30 Oct 2014 at 1:23PM

The disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has featured heavily in the news in the last 24 hours.

While the BBC has reported leaked documents about the future of payments, a major announcement on the new company replacing the assessment provider Atos has also been made.

ESA payments to be reduced?

Today the BBC has reported leaked documents revealing Government considerations for the future of ESA payments.

Internal documents reportedly suggest that thought has been given to reducing the rate of ESA for people placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) to a similar amount to Jobseekers Allowance.

People in the WRAG are recognised as being disabled but can be expected to undertake work related activity.

MS Society deeply concerned

Claire Nurden, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer at the MS Society, said:

"We are vehemently opposed to any reduction in the payments given to disabled people in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance. This would represent a 30% reduction in payment to a group of people recognised as being disabled who face significant barriers to work.

"We are deeply concerned by the DWP’s motivations for considering such a proposal – direct cuts in payments to disabled people must not be used to make up for costs incurred elsewhere”.

The Department for Work and Pensions has said these proposals are not government policy. The MS Society will be discussing this issue with decision makers as soon as possible.

New assessment provider to replace Atos

It has also been announced today that American company Maximus is taking over the contract to assess ESA claimants.

The previous assessment provider, Atos, was heavily criticised for its efficiency and methods of assessment.

An opportunity to improve

Claire Nurden comments: “This new contract is a vital opportunity to improve the ESA process for disabled people. Significant changes must be made to both the contract and the way the Work Capability Assessment works to prevent the same mistakes being made by a new provider.

“The contract must include urgent improvements to improve accuracy. This means ensuring proper recognition of fluctuating and hidden symptoms, a much greater focus on evidence provided by professionals that know the claimant best, and appropriate awards for people with progressive conditions”. 

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Page last updated: 30 Oct 2014

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