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Time to think again on cuts to ESA, says Citizens Advice

17 November 2016

The government should consider pausing its planned cut to the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) until improved job support is in place, Citizens Advice has said today.

The national charity says that the Chancellor could use the Autumn Statement next week to put on hold the cut to ESA WRAG rates in order to deliver on its promise to halve the disability employment gap and support those who can’t currently work.

Changes to ESA announced in the 2015 Budget mean that from April 2017 new claimants who are found not fit for work, but able to undertake some work-related activity, will receive £30 per week less than people currently in WRAG. This means they will received the same level of financial support as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).

The government committed to using the savings from this cut to fund further job support, which is currently being consulted on in the Health and Work Green Paper. However this new support will not be in place in time for when the cut comes in and as many as half a million people could be affected.

MPs from all parties are today discussing these cuts to ESA in parliament after a debate was tabled by Backbench Business Committee member Neil Gray MP.

Between July and September this year people turned to Citizens Advice with over 80,000 ESA queries- 16% more than during the same period last year.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“The new government should think again about cuts to Employment and Support Allowance.

“There has been a positive tone from this government about finding ways to help disabled people and those with long term health problems to get into work when they can. Recent changes to benefit assessments reflect this but pre-existing plans to cut rates for some ESA recipients- before having additional job support in place - could undermine this good intention.

“There is a growing consensus that cutting financial support to people in WRAG risks undermining the government’s goal of ‘work for those who can, support for those who could and care for those who cannot. Reducing how much people get without providing the support they need to get a job  risks making it even harder for disabled people to overcome the barriers they face getting into work.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  5. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.