More than a third of people with degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are having their benefits slashed because the Department for Work and Pensions deems they will recover enough to look for work.
Thousands of those with diseases that only worsen with time – and who have become too ill to work – are being denied full Employment Support Allowance. Instead they are assessed as suitable for work-related activity which is designed for people likely to recover to the point where they can seek employment.
People in The Work-Related Activity Group receive less money and the threat of sanctions if they do not attend regular sessions. Many also have this benefit removed after a year as an added “incentive” to find employment.
Steve Ford, Chief Executive at Parkinson’s UK, said: “These latest figures are an utter disgrace and serve to underline just how little the Government cares for those with progressive conditions like Parkinson’s. To set up a system which tells people who’ve had to give up work because of a debilitating, progressive condition that they’ll recover, is humiliating and nothing short of a farce.
“These nonsensical decisions are a prime example of how benefits assessors lack even the most basic levels of understanding of the conditions they are looking at.”
When people with illnesses and disabilities are assessed for ESA they are either paid full support, told they are fit to work or, if they are deemed likely to recover, put into a third Work-Related Activity Group to apply for jobs and prepare for the workplace.
Almost 8,000 people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Parkinson’s Disease, Cystic Fibrosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis have been put on this third, lesser benefit. Of these, 5,000 were put into the category despite assessors explicitly recognising on reports that their prospect of working is “unlikely in the longer term”.