In an astonishing revelation today we find that the Welfare Reform Bill will apply the “Claimant Commitment” that must be agreed to by job seekers to people in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment Support Allowance. Sanctions will apply for failure to keep to the agreement.
Let me explain: people who are too sick or disabled to work can claim ESA. After a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) they will be placed in either the Support Group or the Work Related Activity Group. (WRAG.) People in the support group are considered completely unable to work, at least until the next assessment, while those placed in the WRAG are considered to be unable to work now but potentially able to work within the next few years, with the right help to do so. (One designer of ESA has said that the intention was within two to five years.) People in this group are required to attend regular work focussed interviews with an advisor at the Job Centre to discuss ways in which they might expect to return to work despite their illness or disability.
It is frightening to discover, therefore, that under the new Universal Credit people who are placed in the WRAG will be subject to the same agreement and conditions as those who are unemployed. This will include the same work experience and work placement schemes, run by the same private commercial providers, and with the same sanctions for refusing to take part. Given the likelihood of dropping out due to sickness and the inability of job centre advisers to be flexible about such things it is highly likely that sanctions will be applied to people merely because they are too sick to do what is asked of them.
What this means is that sick and disabled people who may be completely unable to work at this time can be sent to work for one of the various charities or companies taking part, without pay. The placements are intended to last for eight weeks but unlike for job seekers, there is no time limit for disabled people. People could be sent to work without pay for an unlimited time on the whim of the job centre advisor or the commercial contractor who the person has been sent to.
This is made even worse because the WCA, run by Atos, is notoriously inaccurate, with many people being incorrectly placed in the WRAG or declared fit to work, but later overturning the decision on appeal. There are lots of examples of people who have been judged fit for work by Atos being sent to the Job Centre to claim Job Seekers Allowance only to be refused help and turned away because the job centre staff can clearly see that they are unable to work. These are people who are supposedly more capable than those in the WRAG.
This clause of the welfare reform bill has remained undiscovered until now but now that it is out in the open we must make a fuss, we must protest. This is too far and the government must be stopped by any means necessary.
Please sign the petition to stop and review the Welfare Reform Bill and the petition to abolish work for benefit schemes.
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