Work and Pensions Select Committee member Sheila Gilmore has today called on other MPs to sign her parliamentary motion against a policy that could leave people who are unable to work due to disability without any income.
Up until now, people who apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and are declared fit for work can have this refusal reconsidered as part of lodging a formal appeal while still receiving ESA at a reduced rate.
However as of this week people will have to apply for ‘reconsideration’ first, and will only be permitted to appeal formally if the decision remains the same. As a result they will not be entitled to reduced-rate ESA during this initial period.
Their only alternative will be to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), but to receive this people have to be fit for work. Given that since October 2008, four in ten ESA appeals have eventually been successful, many people who will eventually be awarded ESA could be refused both ESA or JSA during reconsideration.
Sheila Gilmore, Labour MP for Edinburgh East, has put down Early Day Motion 620, which highlights this issue and calls on Ministers to makes changes to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Ms Gilmore said: "Since the introduction of ESA four in ten people found fit for work have appealed their decision and four in ten of those appeals have been successful. I’ve been calling on the Government to fix the test and reduce these numbers for some time.
"However now I’m focusing on those who are incorrectly found fit for work and appeal. In future these people could be left without any income while their claim is reconsidered by civil servants. Ministers have suggested that claimants could apply for Jobseekers Allowance, but they know that to get JSA you have to be fit and available for work.
"The Government will be saying to this group that they are too fit for ESA, but too sick or disabled for JSA. In effect this policy could leave people stuck between benefits. Ministers need to make changes to ensure this doesn’t happen."
Early Day Motion 620 reads: "That this House notes that at present people who apply for employment and support allowance (ESA) and are declared fit for work can ask for this decision to be reconsidered prior to lodging a formal appeal; further notes that at present people can continue to receive ESA at the assessment rate during this period; welcomes the introduction of reconsideration in all cases as of 28 October 2013; expresses concern that people will no longer be able to claim ESA during this period; further expresses concern that their only alternative will be to apply for jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), for which being fit for work is a condition of receipt; further notes that since October 2008 four in 10 appeals have been successful; fears that in future people who are awarded ESA on appeal will be ineligible for both ESA or JSA during reconsideration; believes that the Government has a duty to support those who cannot support themselves through no fault of their own; and calls on Ministers to bring forward legislative proposals to ensure that ESA claimants can continue to receive the benefit at the assessment rate during this period."
* The EDM can be found on the parliament website at: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/620.
* Petition for a cumulative impact assessment of welfare changes, supported by Ekklesia and others: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154