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Government talks the talk on supporting sick and disabled people, but utterly fails to walk the walk.

3 min read

Government should not believe for a second that they are 'pulling the wool over our eyes' on their broken promises, says Neil Gray MP.

The cut to Employment Support Allowance, Work Related Activity Group (ESA WRAG) is now in place. With long term sick and disabled people, who have been assessed as unfit for work, now forced to incur a reduction of £30 per week in critical support.

The UK Government claims this cut will ‘incentivise’ disabled people to find work, despite the recent Work and Pensions Select Committee report highlighting that evidence to support this claim is ‘ambiguous at best’.

Countless disability organisations have pleaded with the UK Government to drop the cuts, as it directly undermines the aim of supporting people back into the work place, and instead pushes disabled people closer to poverty. From research carried out by the Disability Benefits Consortium we know that just 1% said the cut would motivate them to get a job sooner. The fact is disabled people want to work, but find it harder to secure and maintain employment.

The Tories have chosen to ignore the wealth of evidence against the cut to ESA WRAG. They just about bought off the dissent within their own ranks with promises of new support to protect disabled people out of work. Those promises have now been well and truly broken.

The Minister said an additional £15 million will go to the Flexible Support Fund totaling £83 million, yet it is not clear how much will go to disabled people and whether any Job Centre staff have been instructed to target this at ESA WRAG recipients.

Promises were made that the UK Government is negotiating with third parties to help with expenditure including broadband, phone, energy costs and insurance. Yet these deals have not come to fruition. Nor has there been any assurance that these would aid disabled people as they are not directly related to employment and whether it would offset £30 a week cut.

The Government’s Green Paper describes how a Personalised Support Package will be in place for those in ESA WRAG. It is utterly disingenuous to suggest that there is any substantial offer of support in place for the WRAG group as the implementation of the cut begins.

The Tories should not believe for a second that they are pulling the wool over our eyes. There currently is not a decent offset for losing £30 a week in place for sick and disabled people. The empty promises of the Tories and the feeble offerings pale into insignificance when you consider projected savings for the Treasury from the ESA WRAG cut are £640 million by 2020/21.

Research has shown that almost 7 in 10 say cuts to ESA will cause their health to suffer and more than a quarter say they sometimes can’t afford to eat on the current amount they receive from ESA. That should shake us all. 

With the UK Government hoping the recess has shielded them from anger at these cuts, I’ve ensured they won’t be let off the hook. On Tuesday I have secured a debate on this very issue. So I challenge the Minister to come before the chamber and not only answer the questions of the SNP, but to the thousands of people left in limbo and for many, fear, as to how they will make ends meet.

No more broken promises, please Minister, it's time for action.

Neil Gray is the SNP Member of Parliament for Airdrie and Shotts

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