ESA is a car crash – time to put it right

The last few weeks have seen unprecedented change. We now have a new Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Work & Pensions Secretary, Damian Green. The Labour Party is considering its own future with a Leadership contest.

At Pat’s Petition, we are only concerned about the impacts on sick and disabled people: that is our focus. We are sending the following letter to Theresa and Damian, and will publish their responses. We will also ask for a response from the Labour leadership candidates as well as the current Shadow Minister, Debbie Abrahams.

We also support the work of other groups who are trying to get ESA made fit for purpose, including Ekklesia and DPAC.

Dear Theresa, Damian,

Pat’s Petition is a group who campaign on issues that affect sick and disabled people.

In 2009 James Purnell for the Labour Government, supported by Theresa May for the Conservatives, passed the Welfare Reform Act that created Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

This was based on a Report by Lord Freud which, in hindsight, has turned out to be somewhat of a ‘dodgy dossier’. This has led to unintended consequences.

ESA and the WCA were based on the false premise that a change in attitude and reasonable adjustments would be enough to get sick and disabled people in to work. The statistics show clearly that this hasn’t worked. Pressurising sick and disabled people to find employment under these unfair conditions is endlessly cruel.

Theresa has become Prime Minister on a promise of concern for people who are struggling. Theresa is now in a position to put this right.

We would welcome your suggestions as to how you plan to deal with this disaster and we will publish your response on our website.

We believe that the first consideration must be to remove conditionality and make sick and disabled people safe until ways are found to enable them to compete successfully in the labour market.

And what is needed for sick and disabled people to get work? Our own thoughts about increasing inclusion in the work force would be that some sick and disabled people, even with support and reasonable adjustments, cannot compete in an open labour market. Governments made many interventions in the labour market to promote the inclusion of women, including maternity leave and child care support. Pat’s Petition suggest that similar interventions should be considered to promote the inclusion of sick and disabled people in the work force.

This is a new government and a new promise. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on a better way forward for sick and disabled people.

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