Disabled and sick people call for an overhaul of failing jobs support system

By staff writers
9 Apr 2014

A key new report published today highlights the failure of the government's employment support and sanctions system for disabled people and spells out the alternative approach and attitude needed.

Beyond the Barriers has been researched, written and produced by disabled and sick people themselves, through the Spartacus Network, an online research and advocacy organisation.

The new report looks particularly on the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Programme (WP).

Based on the most comprehensive survey of users conducted so far, together with international comparators and detailed, expert analysis, Beyond the Barriers sets out the problems with the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and Work Programme.

It suggests alternatives based on creating value for taxpayers and offering genuine support to those in need, both in-work and out-of-work.

The report is being welcomed by charities such as MIND, Scope, CAB Action and others as an important contribution to the debate.

It has also been commended by Dame Anne Begg MP, Chair of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

As it launched, experts from the disability community have been giving evidence on the failures of ESA to the Work and Pensions Committee, which is being broadcast live on Parliament TV (http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=15297).

Beyond the Barriers has been co-published by the Christian political think-tank Ekklesia, which promotes social justice in collaboration with people of many and no religious convictions.

It will also appear in the online library of the Centre for Welfare Reform, which argues that "the welfare state is a good thing, it's just designed wrong - let's make it better."

Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia, said today: "This is a vital report. It demonstrates from a wealth of evidence the failure of the current ESA system and the assessments driving it. It also proposes a credible, alternative approach rooted in the experience and expertise of people living with long-term health conditions and disabilities themselves.

"Beyond the Barriers shows the way for future policy-making on welfare. Government by ill-fitting, top-down solutions based on false money-saving expectations is bad for the country, bad for democracy, bad for the economy and especially bad for the most vulnerable people in society. Once again Spartacus researchers have illustrated why a major turnaround in attitude and approach is required on ESA, WCA and the Work Programme."

The Beyond the Barriers report has gone viral on social media this morning, as thousands of people express support, recount experiences and back the growing movement across Britain for major change in the support system.

The Spartacus Network, Ekklesia, the Centre for Welfare Reform and others joined forces with a mass of individuals and agencies to get behind the recent WoW petition calling for an end to the 'war on welfare', a comprehensive impact assessment on current policies effecting the most vulnerable in society, and credible alternatives to the current Welfare Reform Act.

Over 104,000 people signed the petition on the government's own e-petition site, securing a debate in the House of Commons and ongoing engagement with ministers on the issues it raised.

It is intended that the Beyond the Barriers report, which looks at policy and practice in detail, the WoW initiative, submissions to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, and the work being done by the Centre for Welfare Reform, Ekklesia and others on a Comprehensive Impact Assessment (CIA) will contribute to continuing pressure on the UK government for substantial policy change.

* Read the full report here (PDF linked): http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/beyondbarriers

* Latest news on Beyond the Barriers from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/beyondbarriersnews

* Press release - Disabled researchers propose alternatives to failed job tests: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20383

* Blog - An unforgiving environment for thousands of disabled people across the UK: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20386

* Ekklesia comment: Major turnaround needed on ESA, WCA, the Work Programme and welfare: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20384

* Spartacus Network: http://www.spartacusnetwork.org.uk

* Beyond the Barriers blogsite: http://beyondthebarriersspartacus.blogspot.co.uk

* Twitter: @spartacusreport and #BeyondBarriers

* Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/weare.spartacus.1?fref=ts

* Centre for Welfare Reform: http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org

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