Disability payments not working says Daventry’s MP

Chris Heaton-Harris MP
Chris Heaton-Harris MP

Daventry’s MP said cuts to disability benefits, coupled with new grants, will do more to help claimants into work.

Chris Heaton-Harris described the current system of payments as ‘inefficient’ and not doing enough to support people to find work.

He was among 309 MPs who voted down amendments from the Lords to the proposal to reduce weekly payments from £103 to £73 before the Government pushed through the bill citing financial privilege.

The change applies to those in the ‘work related activity (WRA) group’ for employment and support allowance (ESA) payments. Those in the WRA group have been assessed as having a disability or health condition that does limit their ability to work right now, but that there are things the person can do to improve this.

The £30 a week reduction lowers the payment to be in-line with jobseeker’s allowance.

The Government has said it will save £55 million in the first year. The Government has also said it will make £60 million available to support claimants taking steps towards finding work.

Mr Heaton-Harris said: “I am one of the chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Learning Disability, so I have studied this extensively.

“The WRA group was always meant to help people into work. It was meant to pay for things like getting to interview practices, or appointments to help people write CVs.

“The problem is that it has not been working, it is inefficient.

“Speaking to disabled people and groups locally I know that the majority of them want to be in work. That is something that is good for them, it is good for their mental health, and it is good for the wider community too.

“The key thing is that no one currently claiming will lose out. It only affects new claims made after April 2017. No current claim will be touched by this change.

“Also if you are paid under the old level, find a job and discover after less than 10 weeks find that it does not work out, you can go back and receive payments at the old rate. That ensures there is no disincentive to take up a job.

“The Government has taken significant steps to make sure nobody loses out.

“It has also announced there will be a pot of £50 million that WRA group claimants can apply to for grants to cover costs like training.

“And it only affects those in the WRA group – those that could work in future. Those that cannot work and where that situation cannot be changed are not affected either.”