27 March 2008
Disability Alliance, Citizens Advice and CPAG have finally accepted what the vast majority of claimants have known for many months: the main purpose of Employment and Support Allowance is to take money from the sick and disabled.
Disability Alliance, say that most ESA claimants will be £1.85 a week worse off under ESA than they would have been under the current system. They argue that ‘ . . there will be an increase in the number of disabled people that will be forced into even greater poverty as a direct result of this reduction.’
Meanwhile CPAG have claimed that the recently announced rates for ESA are ‘against the spirit of the parliamentary promise to disabled people’. According to CPAG:
“Some groups will actually be worse of under the new benefit by as much as £400 a year. This reform was never presented as an opportunity to squeeze out savings from the poorest disabled people and it must not be used for that.”
Citizens Advice have criticised the fact that the new system is unnecessarily complex:
“Under the new regulations, people who have paid NI contributions or have been disabled since childhood will have to apply separately for the enhanced disability premium, and for each of the passported benefits (such as free school meals) that they may be entitled to and other ESA claimants will receive automatically. As a result, they could be up to £60 a week worse off than those on the same benefit who don’t have a contributions record - simply because they qualify for the benefit via a different route.”
Whilst the complexity of the new system means that it is still unclear what rates of benefits everyone will receive it is already apparent that some groups will be worse off.
For example, income support claimants who get a disability premium under the current system receive £86.35 a week. Under ESA the same claimant would be entitled to £84.50 once they joined the work related activity group.
Age related additions and additions for dependants are not payable under ESA, which will hit people who have been incapable of work from an early age particularly hard. A claimant on contribution based ESA who became incapable of work under the age of 35 and who has a dependant spouse would receive £89.50 under ESA compared with £102.25 incapacity benefit.
Couples will also be hard hit because the additional work related activity group and support group components are paid at the same rate regardless of whether you are claiming as a single claimant or as a couple.
Disabled people wishing to undertake a course of higher education will also suffer. Under the current system disabled students who receive incapacity benefit but not DLA can claim income support whilst studying. Under ESA only students who get DLA will be able to claim income based ESA.
The basic ESA rates are as follows:
Basic Allowance (income-based)
£60.50 for single claimants
£94.95 for couples
Basic allowance (contribution-based)
£60.50 for single people and couples
Work related activity component £24 for single people and couples
Support component £29 for single people and couples
Income based ESA claimants who receive the support component will also automatically qualify for the enhanced disability premium of £12.60 per week.
However, the enhanced disability premium is already payable to claimants who receive the highest rate of the disability living allowance care component. As the support group is intended to include only the most disabled claimants, it is likely that the majority would qualify for the enhamced disability component in any case.
The Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 can be downloaded from this link.
The Employment and Support Allowance (transitional provisions) Regulations 2008 can be downloaded from this link.
The Explanatory Memorandum to the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 can be downloaded from this link.
The DWP press release can be downloaded from this link.