Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Part of Department of Health — End of Life Care – in the House of Commons at 6:15 pm on 2nd March 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Minister of State (Department for Work and Pensions) 6:15 pm, 2nd March 2016

I will not give way. We are pressed for time, so I want to make some progress.

As the Secretary of State said last summer, the purpose of the reforms is to ensure that we give people with disabilities and health conditions all the appropriate and necessary support that they need to move them closer to the labour market and to support them into work. We are basing all that we do around what works for them. Importantly, as applies to the other amendments, we are focused particularly on life chances.

I will, if I may, move on to the debate in the other place. I can report that, since we last met, the other place has chosen not to insist on its amendments 8 and 9, which removed the changes to the ESA WRAG and the UC LCW element. However, it has agreed what is in effect a wrecking amendment, because it could in practice prevent the provisions from coming into force, despite the fact that my noble Friend and colleague Lord Freud committed to several additional measures to help those affected by the change, which addressed a number of the specific requests raised in the Lords.

Let me set out the extra measures we have committed to in the other place. First, the additional measures include an additional £15 million in 2017-18, when the changes to the ESA WRAG and the UC LCW element come into force, to increase the local Jobcentre flexible support fund. The money, which will be set aside specifically for those with limited capability for work, represents a 22% increase in the overall fund.

Secondly, in response to the concerns that were raised about claimants with progressive conditions, we have committed to improving the awareness of the reassessment process and the guidance for claimants and disability charities about reassessments. We will provide additional support and training to jobcentre staff to ensure that they are aware that they may need to talk about requests for reassessments with claimants with deteriorating conditions.

Finally, we will improve the work incentives for those who continue to receive ESA even further by removing the 52-week limit that applies to permitted work for those in the ESA WRAG. That will allow claimants to gain skills and experience and to build their confidence, while still receiving the benefit over a longer period. We will support these individuals to get back into work.

As I said earlier, despite those additional measures, the other place proceeded with amendments that ignore the clear voice of this democratically elected House, which has supported the changes to the ESA WRAG and the UC LCW element, and the fact that we have voted on this measure five times. Although, on the face of it, the amendments may appear to be reasonable, let me set out how they are, in effect, potentially wrecking amendments.