THOUSANDS of disabled people have lost their entitlement Employment and Support Allowance – worth up to £99.15 a week for those unable to work due to illness or disability – as a one year time limit came into force.
Shaun Williams, director of corporate affairs at Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “ESA is only paid to people who have been assessed by an independent medical professional as unable to work due to ill health or disability.
“It is completely unjust to put a time limit on this support for disabled people, many of whom want to work but are unable to do so.
“We are deeply concerned about the impact that time-limiting will have on disabled people.”
The time-limiting only affect disabled people who have previously worked.
Mr Williams continued: “Thousands of people will struggle to find a job within this time frame – the Department for Work and Pension’s own research suggests that of those on ESA and in the Work Related Activity Group, 94% will take longer than a year to find work.
“Over the next three years, as many as 700,000 people could be adversely affected by limiting contributory ESA.
“Disabled people are already twice as likely to live in poverty as non disabled people. Taking away this vital support runs the risk of pushing even more people into poverty and debt.”
People will still be able to apply for income-related ESA after their contributory ESA claim ends, but if a claimant’s partner is earning as little as £139.60 per week, or working 24 hours or more per week, claimants will no longer be eligible for ESA.
This figure is the total a couple on benefits could get if one partner is eligible for the Work Related Activity Group of ESA but receive no other premiums.
Neil Coyle, director of policy and campaigns at Disability Rights UK, said: “Whilst we welcome disabled people being supported to enter and retain work, this measure is unlikely to incentivise work, penalises disabled people who have worked, and leaves 280,000 disabled people and their families facing extreme poverty and exclusion.
“We campaign for a more appropriate system to support disabled people into work and for an effective out of work benefits system.
“The Government must monitor the effect of time-limiting out of work support closely and should better support disabled people into employment.
“We believe greater awareness of, and resources for, the Access to Work initiative is essential to help the 50 per cent of working age disabled people not in work get into and retain employment.”