Justin Tomlinson MP for North Swindon writes:
Under ESA people are assessed on an individual basis and placed into one of two groups depending on their circumstances.
1. ESA Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) – for those who have been assessed as being able to undertake work related activities with the correct support.
2. ESA Support Group (SUPPORT) – for those who have been assessed as being unable to work and aren’t expected to find work.
As it stands only 1% of those on WRAG are able to come off this benefit a month and find work, despite them wanting to work. There is cross-party support that this is unacceptable and failing those on WRAG. Therefore there was a clear need to reform this.
To be clear these reforms include:
• There are absolutely NO changes to the SUPPORT group.
• There are absolutely NO changes for those ALREADY in the WRAG group.
• An ADDITIONAL £60m in 2016, rising to £100m by 2020 will be spent providing support for those in the WRAG group per year.
(This is CRUCIAL as at present someone on JSA (closer to the jobs market) would expect an average of 710 minutes professional support, whilst those on WRAG would expect just 105 minutes, yet facing more challenges!)
• The ADDITIONAL support money will be spent in conjunction with a Taskforce including representatives of disability charities, many of whom I regularly work with.
In order to go further in supporting people with disabilities and long-term conditions, the Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement that the Government will publish a White Paper that will set out reforms to improve the system of support for people with health conditions and disabilities. In addition we are making important changes to strengthen the support offered to people with a health condition or disability:
• Universal Credit (UC) is already beginning to transform people’s lives by introducing earlier support and putting claimants in the best possible position to move into and stay in work. Under UC, claimants with health conditions and disabilities will gain more support earlier in their claim to take steps towards work with their dedicated Work Coach working alongside health professionals to ensure they receive personalised integrated support.
• The DWP and Department of Health have created the Work and Health Unit to help support people with health conditions and disabled people back into employment. This Joint Unit has at least £115 million of funding, including at least £40m for a work and health innovation fund, to pilot new ways to join up across the health and employment systems.
• Returning to suitable work can improve mental health, and that is why the Government is committed to ensuring that people with mental health conditions receive effective support to return to, and remain in, work. £43 million is being invested over the next three years in trialling ways to provide specialist support for people with mental health conditions.
With these changes we are focusing support, not removing it. As a Government we are committed to halving the disability employment gap, something I am leading on as the Minister for Disabled People. We need to have a system that is effective and works for the people using it, and these reforms will deliver better, more tailored support to individuals.
As a Government we are (rightly) spending more on disability benefits every year since we came to office in 2010 and will continue to do so throughout this Parliament.