In April 2017, changes will be introduced for new claimants, but not currents ones, in the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG). These changes will mean that new claimants from April 2017 will be placed on the same rate as those claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA). Quite importantly, no one who is in the ESA WRAG will see their circumstances suddenly alter because of these changes.
At present, 1 in 5 JSA claimants move off benefits every month, however, this rate drops to 1 in 100 for ESA WRAG claimants. Part of the government’s reasoning is that this is a failing on the part of the policy and that JSA can offer better routes to work. Also, the savings delivered from these changes can be redirected to provide practical support to improve peoples’ life chances. This funding will be worth £60 million in 2017/18, increasing to £100 million by 2020/21. A taskforce of leading charities, providers and local authorities will influence how this support money will be spent; with recommendations to improve the support provided specifically for the disabled and very unwell. I think these are innovative reforms to a system that is not working for all.
While these changes do not apply for current ESA WRAG claimants (only new ones from April 2017) it is important to note that ESA Support Group claimants will remain entirely unaffected as these changes do not relate to them. Those in the Support Group are identified as not able to take part in any work-related activity and I think it is right these changes do not touch upon this group.
Reforms to the welfare system can be controversial which is why I think it is important to have a serious and sensible debate. I am always willing to speak to constituents about issues and this one is no different from any other. You can call my office to book a surgery appointment or contact me via the homepage of this website to raise any issue you would like to address with me.
I do hope this information provides some clarity as to my decision and illustrates that these changes are not entirely as some people would have them presented. They are not about rash acts of cutting support to the very ill or disabled. The overriding objective is to improve the welfare system to ensure that funds are allocated in the most appropriate and effective manner.