Andrew Turner, the Island’s MP, is concerned reporting on changes to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) could frighten vulnerable people on the Island. Last Wednesday, the House of Commons voted down a number of wrecking amendments from the House of Lords on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. The Government had already accepted reasoned amendments from the Lords during the progress of the Bill.
The focus of much reporting has been on changes to support for those claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Mr Turner said:
“It needs to be made very clear that there will be no change for people already claiming ESA, who may well have become scared by some of the reports. There will also be no change for people who are unable to work; it is only new claimants from April 2017 in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) who will be affected. From that date they will receive the same level of financial support as those on Jobseeker’s Allowance; currently they receive almost £30 a week more. Instead of higher direct payments, new claimants will receive tailored support to help them get back into work – helping them out of the benefits trap. The details of that support will be the subject of a White Paper – and ongoing dialogue with charities and other interested parties – so that it can be in place before the changes take effect.
“Nationally there has been strong job growth and record employment levels, and one in five people on Jobseeker’s Allowance moves into work each month, but the figure for those in the WRAG is only 1 in 100, despite 61% of them saying they want to work. The benefits of economic growth are being denied to a large group of people that want to work. The current system, in place since 2008, fails them, their families and the taxpayer.
“During the debate Frank Field MP, former Labour welfare minister, said “No Government over the next 10 years will have the resources that previous Governments had to drive their counter-poverty programme by increasing cash transfers. We might wish that it were different, but we need to grow up”. He may disagree with the Government over the detail of how to support those who can work and want to work, into work – but he understands the fundamental problem. With less money to spend, it needs to be targeted where it will have the most effective results.”