Employment and Support Allowance

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 26 January 2015.

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Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East 2:30, 26 January 2015

What recent assessment he has made of the reasons for changes in the number of employment and support allowance claimants.

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

Under this Government, the number of people in receipt of out-of-work benefits has fallen by 899,000, and there are 93,000 fewer people on incapacity benefit since May 2010.

Photo of Sheila Gilmore Sheila Gilmore Labour, Edinburgh East

I thank the Minister for that answer, but I think he is absolutely clear that the number of people on incapacity benefit who have been found unfit for work is far higher than the Department for Work and Pensions predicted. Is it not time that Ministers dropped the scrounger rhetoric and accepted that if people are to move back towards employment, they need real help and support?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

I do not know whom the hon. Lady has heard using that rhetoric, but it is certainly not me or members of this Government. [Interruption.] It is no good her waving at us. It may be reported like that in newspapers, but Ministers do not use that sort of language. I have been very clear that people who are able to go to work with the right support will receive employment and support allowance. I am sure she was listening to the long exchange we had earlier on mental health support. Half the people on ESA have a mental health problem. She will have heard me set out the considerable range of things we are doing to help them to get back into work.

Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Ministers are spending £8 billion more than planned on incapacity benefit and ESA because they cannot assess people quickly enough, they cannot reassess them, and the failing Work programme cannot get them into sustained employment. Even the Minister for Employment, Esther McVey, admitted a few moments ago that it is achieving a 90% failure rate. Now the Tories say that they want to cut £12 billion from social security spending, and disabled people are worried that they will be paying for this catalogue of Tory welfare failure. What reassurance can the Minister offer them?

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

I listened carefully, but it is a bit rich for the hon. Lady to criticise the issues we had with the assessment process. There were issues with the assessment provider that her Government appointed, which is why we appointed a new contractor, Maximus, which will start work in March, and I am confident that that will improve the assessment process and get people back into work. Getting people back into work is how we will continue to reduce the benefits bill, which I remind her rose enormously when her party was in government.