Earlier this month, the House of Commons voted to proceed with a hefty cut to employment and support allowance (ESA) (the name for incapacity benefit and income support) since 2008).
To remain on ESA after the initial assessment, a claimant must score 15 points from these descriptors. Since 2008, anyone scoring 0, 6, or 9 points is moved onto jobseeker's allowance and is 'fit for work'. Qualifying for ESA is getting past a high bar.
The legislation passed abolishes the 'work-related activity component (WRAC)' (which replaced the disability premium in income support for people unable to work). The 'support component' remains, which also replaces the disability premium but for a slightly different subset of ESA claimants. (The difference is small and arbitrary, and is essentially whether the claimant scores all 15 points from one activity.)
The naming is Orwellian and does not describe the subject matter in a way easily understood. The thinking appears to be that by generously adding the words 'work' and 'employment', ill people unable to work would be persuaded into employment anyway.
Since most claimants are in the work-related group rather than the support group, the removal of the WRAC leaves the level of ESA the same as jobseeker's allowance for most claimants.
This week, I was appalled to see that the new Secretary of State put out a grossly misleading and false statement, claiming that people on ESA with a work-related activity component have been found to be fit for work.
I then noticed that my local MP, Andrew Turner, has put out a suspiciously similar statement.
Further investigation uncovered no less than 13 MPs who has all repeated almost the exact same statement, often ironically decrying the 'misunderstanding' that the cut affected people who are ill.
It seems clear that MPs were lobbied on a factually incorrect basis and were misled into voting for the cut under false pretences. Even Conservative MPs had threatened to vote down the budget over proposed PIP criteria changes so cannot be taken to fully behind all benefit cuts. But on almost any analysis, the ESA cut is harsher than the proposed PIP changes and may affect much more vulnerable and ill people.