To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the Seventh Report of the Work and Pensions Committee, Disability Employment Gap, HC56, if he will make it his policy to postpone the introduction of the new rate of employment and support allowance for people in the work-related activity group until new programmes to support such people are introduced.
We intend to proceed with our reforms to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because we believe they are the best way to ensure that we provide the right support for those who are unable to work due to a health condition or disability. That support is not limited to just money, but also practical help for ESA claimants to take steps towards and into work, while keeping an important safety net in place for those who are vulnerable or unable to work.
This change will only apply to new claims from 3 April 2017 and will only affect those in the ESA Work Related Activity Group
Existing ESA claimants with a current claim prior to 3 April will not be affected and will continue to get the same level of financial support, with additional protections, including when reassessed and placed in the Work Related Activity Group, set out in regulations.
A key part of our reforms is the allocation of a total of £330m for new, voluntary employment support for people with limited capability for work, over four years starting from April 2017, and an extra £15 million through a top up to the existing Flexible Support Fund in both 2017/18 and 2018/19.
This additional funding means that from April 2017 we will be offering people newly placed in the Work Related Activity Group, and it’s Universal Credit equivalent, more assistance to move closer to the labour market and when they are ready into work.
As well as the £330m set out above, the 2015 Spending Review announced the new Work and Health Programme, which will focus support on people with a disability or health condition. In addition to beginning a commercial process to let contracts with a total value in excess of £400m for the Work and Health Programme in the rest of England and Wales, the Department has announced its intention to provide around £100m of funding to London and Greater Manchester to develop, procure and deliver localised versions of the new Work and Health Programme to fit the needs of their residents. We are also in discussion with the Scottish Government about devolving an appropriate level of funding for equivalent support they may wish to offer.