Written evidence submitted by CarerWatch |
This evidence is presented by CarerWatcha
group of unpaid family carers. We also have many members with
long-term disability. We are an internet group and continually
consult with our members. In particular we have written this evidence
in open consultation with our members.
Firstly we would like to state that we have never
seen such anxiety and distress amongst our members as that being
caused by this migration from IB to ESA. The Government has caused
this distress and we ask the Select Committee to use their best
offices to get the Government to relieve this distress with extreme
urgency. We are sure you understand that undue stress is detrimental
to most health conditions.
You ask that we focus on certain questions:
Department's communications to customers going through the assessment
and whether the information, guidance and advice provided by the
Department and Jobcentre Plus.
members have not yet experienced assessment. We can only say that
our members are terrified by the reports that they hear from the
media. The Government has caused this perceived threat and we
cannot understand why no Government minister either in the last
government or this government steps forward to offer reassurance
to our members. This seems a complete failure of the duty of care.
Work Capability Assessment including the assessment criteria the
service provided by Atos staff the suitability of assessment centres
and customers' overall experience of the process.
our members have not as yet experienced this assessment. From
what they have heard it fills them with dread.
decision making process and how it could be improved to ensure
that customers are confident that the outcome of their assessment
is a fair and transparent reflection of their capacity for work.
is the crux of the problem. Our members perceive the WRAG to be
a nasty group where people are bullied and harassed and effectively
required to work. Our members need help back to work if they want
it but they also need safety and security. They do not understand
why threats and sanctions will be put on them. Their fear is of
the WRAG which they do not think meets their needs.
intrinsic nature of the WRAG is never clearly defined or explained.
Professor Paul Spicker says in his recent book that the WRAG was
originally intended as a rehabilitation group for people with
conditions that were expected to get better.
our members will not get better and rehabilitation is not appropriate
for them. It says clearly in the Welfare Reform Act that anyone
who is allocated to ESA has a condition which makes it unreasonable
to require them to work. Our members have long-term conditions
and so will always have a condition that makes it unreasonable
to require them to work.
yet if they are allocated to the WRAG the time limit, the conditionality,
the pressure in the WRAG is effectively requiring them to work.
A DWP impact statement actually says:
was never intended that ESA for those in the Work Related Activity
Group (WRAG) should be paid for an unlimited period to people
who, by definition, are expected to move towards the workplace
with help and support. Government intervention is required to
help ensure that ESA is paid for a temporary period for those
placed in the WRAG, thereby encouraging a return to work and stopping
people being trapped on benefits for a lifetime".
people in the WRAG are actually only in a halfway house on their
way to being required to work. This is illogical as they have
been assessed as having a condition that makes it unreasonable
to require them to work. Is the WRAG for people who it is unreasonable
to require to work as it says in the Act or is it a group for
people who will be forced to work? This has to be clarified before
a test can be devised to allocate people to the WRAG. The problem
is not with the test. The problem is with the unclear nature of
the intrinsic concept of the WRAG.
is worse is that getting back to work is to be achieved by means
of time limits, threats and sanctions. This is causing the fear.
with long-term disability will never be the same as fit unemployed
people. Mr Grayling continually tries to equalise conditions between
JSA and the WRAG on grounds of fairness but this is not fair.
People with disability have extra difficulty and need extra consideration.
will always have barriers to workphysical, social, emotional,
practical. That does not mean that they cannot work and hopefully
many of them can. The idea of supporting them with help to work
is excellent and ESA could have been an excellent program of help.
Unfortunately by introducing threats, sanctions, conditionality
and time limits ESA is now riddled with fear.
Support Group does not rule people out of work. People with even
the severest of conditions may be able to find and keep work.
Stephen Hawkins comes to mind. Help should be offered to absolutely
every one with disability. But not threats and sanctions. No contractor
or advisor has walked in the shoes of the person with disability
whom he is advising. Any perceived non compliance may always be
due to the condition. No sanction can ever be known to be fair.
The idea of conditionality and sanctions being applied to people
who are not fit for work can never be fair.
conclusionthe allocation to the WRAG for long-term conditions
is therefore illogical and until it is made clear why some people
are to be harassed and not others we can't discuss how to manage
the allocation in a way that is clear and transparent. We simply
do not believe that any government minister in this Government
or the last has given a convincing explanation as to why someone
who is never going to be fit to be required to work should be
harassed and threatened and effectively required to work.
appeals process, including the time taken for the appeals process
to be completed; and whether customers who decide to appeal the
outcome of their assessment have all the necessary guidance, information
and advice to support them through the process.
the grounds for treating the two groups differently are not clear
to us then the allocation is not transparent and the grounds for
appeal are also not transparent.
outcome of the migration process and the different paths taken
by the various client groups: those moved to Jobseeker's Allowance,
including the support provided to find work and the impact of
the labour market on employment prospects; those found fit for
work who may be entitled to no further benefits; those placed
in the Work Related Activity Group of the ESA, including the likely
impact of the Department's decision to time-limit contribution-based
ESA to a year; and those placed in the Support Group.
do not accept that the WRAG is a safe place for anyone who has
a long-term condition where it is not reasonable to require them
to work for the reasons given above. It's no wonder when less
than a third of existing IB claimants made it to the Support Group
in the pilots that there is a climate of fear about the WRAG.
time-scale for the national roll-out for the migration process,
including the Department's capacity to introduce changes identified
as necessary in the Aberdeen and Burnley trials.
don't believe the division into Support and WRAG is logical or
meaningful for long-term conditions so obviously we don't think
that ESA should be rolled out until it is made fit for purpose.
It would take so little to make ESA fair and transparent and an
excellent program of help. Simply place every one who has a long-term
condition that meets the criteria of ESA in the Support Group
and offer them help. Concentrate the help on people who want it
whatever the severity of their condition. If people were not so
terrified of being allocated to the WRAG they would have the confidence
to try things that might fail. Currently they will be frightened
to "have a go" in case they are moved to the WRAG or
JSA. Fear and threats are just no help to people with disability.
Fear of the WRAG is demotivating and counter productive.
Leave the WRAG as a rehabilitation group.
CarerWatch are dismayed by the alarm and fear the
roll out of ESA is causing our members. CarerWatch do not think
ESA is fit for purpose and think the roll out should be halted
until it is made fit for purpose. The Act says that any one allocated
to ESA has a condition which makes it unreasonable to require
them to work. If this is a long-term condition they will always
have barriers to finding and keeping work and they should be allocated
to the Support Group. The WRAG is a half way house to being time
limited and sanctioned and forced off benefits. It is effectively
requiring people to work which is illogical. The WRAG should revert
to its original role of a rehabilitation group for people who
will get better.
With this one change ESA could become an excellent
initiative to help people work and once the fear is removed people
with long-term disability might take a more
positive approach and take a few risks to try and work.
26 http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/esa-time-limit-wr2011-ia.pdf Back