‘Don’t push disabled people into poverty’: Over 100 disability organisations tell Government to ditch Work Capability Assessment changes

NSUN, as a member of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), opposes the proposed changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

You can find the DBC’s statement below and via their website.
You can read NSUN’s initial response to the DWP’s announcement of the consultation on the WCA process here.

A network of over 100 disability organisations – including the MS Society and Parkinson’s UK – are urging the Government to abandon ‘alarming’ benefits changes, which would mean many disabled people losing out on £400 a month.

In September, the Government proposed changes to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). These assessments are used to decide whether a Universal Credit (UC) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimant must fulfil “work-related requirements” – preparing and looking for work – to continue receiving their benefits in full. If these changes go ahead, it would tighten the criteria used to assess disabled people and their ability to carry out work. This would mean many claimants who are currently considered unable to work could be forced into unsuitable work – or risk being sanctioned. But in many cases a disabled person’s debilitating symptoms, for example incontinence, means it’s impossible to work even with the best support.

In addition to the threat of sanctions, these claimants would lose out on the higher rate of support – potentially hundreds of pounds a month – which is invaluable to many disabled people1. Despite extensive opposition from the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and disabled people, the Government is expected to officially announce these changes later this month.

The proposed changes will tighten the rules around assessing things like mobility, and bladder and bowel issues. In each case, people’s symptoms would need to be more severe in order for them to avoid being made to fulfil work-related requirements.2

There is currently a safeguard measure within the WCA criteria, meaning that if work-related requirements are thought to pose a substantial risk to a person’s physical or mental health, they are automatically excused from fulfilling these requirements. But under the proposed changes, this safeguard would be removed – potentially putting people’s health at risk.

Jessica Hole is 42 and from Plymouth. She lives with relapsing MS, which causes her a range of symptoms such as vision difficulties, balance issues, cognition problems and bladder sensitivity. Because of this, Jessica is not able to work and claims Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). She’s currently entitled to the higher level of ESA support and does not have to complete any work-related requirements to receive her benefits in full.

Jessica says: “Losing out on the higher level of support would be catastrophic for me. Being disabled means that my daily living costs are higher, so the extra support is critical. Taking that away would hugely impact my quality of life, my ability to go out and socialise, and my mental health. It would cause me so much stress and anxiety, as I’d constantly be worrying about paying the bills.

“I’d be really worried if I was asked to fulfil any ‘work related requirements’. With MS, my symptoms vary so much from day-to-day, it’s so changeable and some days are really difficult. I don’t know how I could manage to fulfil the requirements.”

Anastasia Berry, Policy Co-Chair of the DBC and Policy Manager at the MS Society, says: “Instead of supporting disabled people into work, the Government is placing disabled people at risk of sanctions and financial loss. If these changes go ahead, they will push many more disabled people into poverty. It will cause significant stress and anxiety, and pose a real risk to people’s health and wellbeing.

“The Government claim that the increase in working from home will make it easier for disabled people to return to work. But in the majority of cases, people are still having to travel to the workplace.3 Instead of punishing disabled people by reducing financial support during a cost of living crisis, the Government should take a more supportive approach to helping people get in and stay in work. This should include improving employment support, access to healthcare and schemes like Access to Work.”

The DBC is calling for the Government to listen to disabled people and scrap the proposed changes to the WCA.

You can find the DBC’s full response to the government’s consultation here.

Take action

Sign the petition to scrap dangerous disability benefit reforms (part of the Security Not Sanctions campaign from anti-poverty charity Z2K).

Stay up to date with campaigning action via Disabled People Against Cuts.