Diary Day 118: Standard Letter For MPs Green Paper Work Health and Disability Improving Lives

Here is the link to the documentation:

Link to Government Green Papers 

At the bottom of this blog post is a standard letter for you to copy and paste and send to either your MP or disability rights organisations. 

Here is a link to a Consultation form which asks questions in order for them to be included in the discussion around the Green Paper. 

It is extremely important that those who have fluctuating health conditions, or are currently in the benefits system, respond to this consultation.

It will affect families, friends, those applying for out of work ill health benefits for the first time or are currently in the system.

The letter is at the bottom of this post and below are key points

Improving lives? 

In a collaboration between the Department For Work and Pensions, and The Department of Health, the Government has published a Green Paper called Work, Health and Disability, Improving Lives.

An extensive document, it sets out a way that the government will seek to address the problems that prevent employing sick and disabled people in the workplace.

Its principles are that sick and disabled people are barred from gaining employment not because of the barriers their health conditions bring, but because of the lack of work-based support to employ people.

They believe that working is a health outcome and particularly emphasise that it is a positive one for people with mental health conditions, as well as physical ones.

The support the Green Paper proposes includes interventions from JobCentre Plus via advisors engaging people who are sick or disabled, to encourage and motivate them into work.

Job Seekers Allowance – Expectations and Sanctions 

This is similar to the system that exists for those people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in the UK (JSA.)

It is widely reported that people claiming JSA are subject to penalties if they do not meet criteria from the Department for Work and Pensions around Job Seeking Activity.

This could be attending appointments with advisors at JobCentre Plus and proving ongoing work-seeking activity.

Those penalties are called ‘sanctions.’ That means that by not complying with the rules set out by the government, all your benefits will cease. Often this happens with no warning.

Assessment of ill health – UK benefits system

There is a difference between people who are out of work and well and claiming Job Seekers Allowance and people in the benefits system due to ill health.

Currently the way people who are long term sick are financially supported in the UK is via the benefits system and a benefit payment called Employment and Support Allowance or ESA.

This system requires people who are too unwell to work to:

  1. Attend a mandatory work capability assessment (WCA) which decides whether the applicant will be given Employment and Support Allowance, and for how long.
  2. The same WCA is the gateway to a decision whether the applicant’s health condition will be short term or long term.
  3. If the WCA identifies that the applicant is fit to work, their benefits can be stopped accordingly and the applicant will have to claim JSA.
  4. If the WCA identifies that the applicant is not fit to work in the short term, the applicant will be placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).
  5. If the WCA identifies that the applicant is not fit to work in the long term, the applicant will be placed in the Support Group.

Impact of Tory Cuts financially on those too unwell to work 

Following cuts to the ESA budget in 2016, people in the WRAG originally given the same level of financial support as those in the Support Group are no longer given the equal amount of money as they.

The difference is that those in the Support Group receive £250.00 every fortnight ESA payment and those newly assessed and put into the WRAG will now receive £142.00 every fortnight.

For those who are not in receipt of additional benefits like the old Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) this is the sole amount of money they live on – their only entitlement to social security.

The ESA Support Group 

Those in the Support Group are paid an additional amount of money which is called a ‘Disability Component.’ This is in recognition that those in the Support Group are assessed as having more significant and impactful long term health conditions than those in the WRAG.

People in The Support Group are not expected to carry out work related activity and are in the Group in the long term.

Green Paper Work, Health and Disability, Improving Lives 

Whereas anyone who is struggling with a long term health issue that prevents them from working will no doubt empathise with the Government’s principle that the workplace contains multiple barriers that are dis-enabling.

However the Green Paper states that changes will take place to the above benefits system. Those changes will include the expectation that those in the Support Group will now have to engage with Work Related Activity in order to continue to receive Employment and Support Allowance.

Protest by sending the letter / email below 

However I am also writing to my MP.

The following is a standard letter that you can cut and paste or attach to an email for you to do the same. The form that asks questions in the consultation is lengthy, this letter is for those of you with cognitive issues and little or no energy to expend on filling out that form.

 

Your address

Address of your MP

Date

Re: Work, Health and Disability Green Paper – Improving Lives 

I am writing to give you my feedback about the above Green Paper and ask for your voting intentions.

I am a constituent who is reliant on the benefits system due to ill health and disability. Since (insert date here) I have been assessed as unfit to work and have been placed in the ESA Support Group / WRAG (delete which is appropriate.)

My long term health condition is considered a disability under The Equalities Act (2010.) I have CFS/ME, a multi-system neurological disorder.

Under the current system of WCA I have provided medical evidence that shows that my health condition renders me unable and unfit to work. That has been agreed by the DWP in placing me in the WRAG / Support Group.

Whereas the philosophy behind the Green Paper is admirable; that work can produce positive health outcomes, this is not always the case.

The expectation inherent in the Green Paper that those in the Support Group considered too unwell to work and not currently expected to perform work related activity, may actually be expected to do so is concerning on many levels.

I am listing my concerns below:

  1.  Is not the role of the disabled, sick and unwell person to bear the brunt of penalties while/if and when central initiatives to create social and economic change fail or are in process of being established.
  2. People in the Support Group are already considered, by the government’s own processes, as to not be fit to work. It is a paradox that the Green Paper suggests that process is superseded by an expectation that they will have to perform work related activity.
  3. Long term health conditions and disability create complex medical issues. The government will need to employ advisors in JobCentre Plus with in depth knowledge of those medical issues in order to approach people who are sick, unwell or disabled effectively and safely. If they are not available, they will not be able to make the type of in depth assessment of potential for work related activity.
  4. The Green Paper creates a system where the medical professionals in the WCA and those who have advised for the WCA are being contradicted by the expectation that those in the Support Group will carry out work related activity.
  5. People who are unwell are unwell. People in the Support Group are considered too unwell to work or that their disability renders them unfit for work. Their health condition or disability will prevent them from making appointments, being able to attend them, discussing complex issues on the phone or in writing or in person. It is unthinkable that those same people may be subject to penalties or sanctions, as proposed in the Green Paper.
  6. The consultation format – a form filled out online – is excluding of those who do not have access to a computer or are unable to respond without help or audio visual computer aids. Many of these people will be those who have first hand knowledge of the benefits system and / or disability and wish their views to be included. For this reason I believe the consultation format itself contradicts The Equalities Act (2010.)

I would like you to provide me with a written answer to the above points by (insert date here.)

In the same response I would like you to confirm your voting intention in Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

( your name your signature here) 

NB This letter and the contents of this blog post is being circulated under Creative Commons Licensing. That means you are free to copy and paste it, amend it and use it as you see fit.

Copyright Lindy 2016

 

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