Last night, Tom Clark in The Guardian reported that
Taking the measures one at a time, the first – and the biggest – was to "time limit contributory employment and support allowance" for one year, that is the benefit formerly known as incapacity benefit. What this means is that a disabled or seriously sick person who has a working spouse, however low-paid their job may be, will lose their personal entitlement to benefits after a year.
The CSR document in fact states that there will be
“a time limit to contributory Employment and Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group of one year”After a spending review like yesterday's, the media need to be very careful indeed about checking their facts before they print information as inflammatory as the paragraphs by Mr Clark.
When an assessment for ESA is carried out, the claimant is either considered suitable to look for work and is therefore placed in the Work related Activity Group, where they attend training and receive support to find suitable employment. If they are assessed as unable to work, they are put in the Support group and the changes WILL NOT AFFECT THEM.
Now, there is an excellent argument to be made that some of those placed in the Work Related Activity Group will have been wrongly assessed or will take a very long time indeed to get a job due to the difficulties they face. Stopping ESA altogether for these people after one year and expecting a partner to look after them financially is yet another example of the coalition drawing arbitrary lines in the sand without considering the impact it will have on families. However, it does NOT constitute the totally callous disgrace that Mr Clark initially implied and his comments will have caused extreme distress to many seriously ill people who could not work under any circumstances, however much they might love to.
There were many examples in Mr Osborne's CSR yesterday of an easy disregard for people's future's, a lack of understanding of the consequences of many of his proposals - we don't need to embroider any to make it sound even worse than it is. During these oh-so-sensitive times, the media need to do something rather alien to them - just report the facts.
Over the next few weeks I will be keeping a very close eye on this and will certainly comment on how people are affected by the change, but this morning, things look rather better than the initial reporting suggested.