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ESA benefit payments: Re-tests to be axed for chronically ill claimants

The Government has announced that tens of thousands of people claiming the main benefit for long-term sickness, Employment Support Allowance (ESA), will no longer face repeated medical assessments in order to keep their payments. The BBC reports that Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green has said it is pointless to re-test ESA recipients with severe conditions and no prospect of getting better.

The move has been welcomed by charities supporting those with severe illness. Michelle Mitchell, head of the MS Society, described it as a “victory for common sense”. Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said it was “a welcome U-turn” by the government, but “the devil was in the detail. What about mental health conditions, conditions that are fluctuating, conditions that may not necessarily have a physical manifestation?” While the end to repeated assessments will be a relief to those that have been affected, this announcement falls far short of the fundamental shift to a more holistic, person-centred approach we so desperately need. Too many sick and disabled people will remain subject to this harmful, ineffective assessment. We will continue to push the Tories for a better deal for disabled people.”

However Frances Ryan claims in her Guardian article that the government have simply fixed one piece of an altogether broken disability benefits system. “No one should believe this is over. The Tories have simply fixed one piece of an altogether broken disability benefits system. The government has still made no effort to address the test itself: the notorious work capability assessment used by the DWP to determine who is eligible for out-of-work sickness benefits in the first place. Nor has gone it back on its impending move to cut part of the benefit by £30 a week – when it is fully aware that disabled people are having to skip meals.

“At the same time, the retesting of chronically ill or disabled people for another key benefit – personal independence payments – remains, and thousands with unchanging or degenerative conditions are preparing to be put through that pointless assessment once again.

Saturday’s announcement will not undo the suffering of the disabled people already forced through the reassessment system. It will not take back the anxiety of sleepless nights or fix the health that has been damaged. And, most painfully, it’s too late to help the people who have died.”

What do you think about this announcement from the government? Do you think this is a victory that should be celebrated? Let us know in the comments below, on our Twitter, or over on our Facebook page.


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