DEBATE TODAY AT 2PM

Today, Sheila Gilmore has won a debate on a very specific area of welfare reform. The government have made it harder for people to appeal if their claim for Employment Support Allowance is rejected. First, they must now wait for a “Mandatory Reconsideration” which means that the DWP decision maker has to look at his decision again. In principle this is fine – in fact it would be a ggod idea, hopefully meaning that fewer people had to go through the stress of an unnecessary appeal.

BUT…and isn’t there always a but with this government? Your ESA will be stopped during that period, meaning that for many there will be no income at all. To make things worse, the DWP have refused to set a tiime limit on how long Mandatory Reconsideration will take. So, in theory, we have a situation where your claim could be rejected, and you lose your only source of income indefinitely. If you plan to appeal, you can hardly sign up for JSA as doing so involves a declaration of “fitness to work”. 
If at the end of all this your appeal is successful, the money you lost would be refunded, but what good is that to people living with no income for a long as the DWP feel like leaving them? How would you eat in the meantime. It’s a shocking situation that could cause untold suffering. 
As you can see below, the debate is at 2pm and you can watch it live here : http://www.parliamentlive.tv/main/Player.aspx?meetingId=13720

Press release: MP sends Minister speech before debate on controversial benefits test

Posted on September 4, 2013

Debate on test for Employment and Support Allowance at 2pm on Friday
Sheila Gilmore’s speech sent to Minister responsible this afternoon
Minister can have no excuses for not answering questions

In advance of a debate on the test for controversial sickness and disability benefit ESA, Work and Pensions Select Committee member Sheila Gilmore today took the unusual step of emailing an advance copy of her speech to the Minister due to respond, Mark Hoban.

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is used to determine whether people can get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which replaced the old-fashioned Incapacity Benefit in 2008. Since its introduction many claimants have been incorrectly found fit for work. Sheila Gilmore has secured a half hour debate on this issue at 2pm on Friday 7 September.

Speaking today Sheila Gilmore said:

Today I have taken the unusual step of emailing a copy of my speech for an upcoming debate to Mark Hoban, the Minister due to speak for the Government. Now he can have no excuse for not answering the important questions I intend to put to him.

Sheila Gilmore went on to say:

Since the introduction of the Work Capability Assessment, 4 in 10 people found fit for work have appealed their decision and four in ten of those appeals have been successful. I’ve been calling on the Government to fix the test and reduce these numbers for some time.

However on Friday I’m going to focus on those who are incorrectly found fit for work and appeal. In future these people will be left without any income while their claim is reconsidered by Civil Servants. Ministers have suggested that claimants could apply for Jobseekers Allowance, but they know that to get JSA you have to be fit and available for work.

In effect the Government will be saying to this group that they are too fit for ESA, but too sick or disabled for JSA. Ministers need to sort out this contradiction.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:
Sheila Gilmore will focus on the support given to people who are incorrectly found fit for work during a period known as reconsideration – in effect an informal appeal to civil servants that has to take place before a case can be passed to independent Tribunal Judges. At present claimants can be paid ESA at a reduced rate during this period, but in the future they will have to apply for Jobseekers Allowance. A requirement of JSA is that people are fit and available for work, meaning many people who will eventually be awarded ESA will not qualify.
See the email Sheila Gilmore sent to Mark Hoban here.
Sheila Gilmore is a member of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee. You can view the committee’s website here.
For more information please contact Matt Brennan, Parliamentary Assistant to Sheila Gilmore MP, on 020 7219 7062, 07742 986 513 or matthew.brennan@parliament.uk.

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