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OVER £143m CUT FROM DISABLED PEOPLE LOOKING FOR WORK

TORY MINISTER CLAIMS “NO SAVINGS” IN RETRACTED STATEMENT WHILE SCOTS DISPROPORTIONATELY HIT

Recent figures have revealed that the UK Government’s policy to abolish the Work Related Activity Component (WRAC) for claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has cut their incomes by over £143.2m since it was enforced in April 2017.

Claimants of ESA suffer from a disability or health condition that affects how much they can work. Claimants are put in one of two groups: the Support Group – those who cannot work – and the Work Related Activity Group – those who require support returning to work.

In April 2017, the UK Government abolished the WRAC resulting in a weekly cut of £29.05. In response to a Parliamentary Question from Mrs Fellows, Disabilities Minister, Justin Tomlinson, claimed that “there are no savings” and that the cut “enabled the Department to recycle money”.

This answer was retracted four days later and replaced with the claim that the figures were not available and would incur disproportionate costs to calculate.

But figures from the House of Commons Library reveal that between April 2017 and June 2019, approximately over £143.2m has been cut from people with disabilities seeking to get into work.

£19.5m – or 13.6% – has been disproportionately cut from Scottish claimants despite Scotland making up 8.2% of the UK population.

Total cuts are likely to be much higher as Universal Credit claimants in the equivalent Limited Capability for Work group are also affected, but not identifiable. A Treasury forecast in 2017 estimated that by 2020/21, a total of £510m would be cut from ESA and Universal Credit incomes through the measure.

Commenting, the SNP’s Disabilities spokesperson, Marion Fellows, said:

“Recent figures show the shocking extent of the Tories punitive cuts to the incomes of society’s most vulnerable people.  A cut to peoples’ incomes of over £1,500 a year has had a devastating impact. The Tories must reverse their cuts.

“The Minister’s response is insulting to those people whose incomes are being hit. Worse yet, the UK Government has shamefully tried to hide how much they have cut by claiming it is too expensive to calculate when the Commons Library was easily able to produce reliable figures.

“Scotland is bearing the brunt of this Tory cut. With independence, we can take control of all welfare powers and use them to support disabled people into work. We can do this by improving the Access to Work scheme and implementing protective legislation for disabled people.

“Instead, the Tories’ are using their brutal welfare regime as a stick to beat vulnerable people into work by depriving them of basic support. These figures are especially shocking given many people have been wrongfully declared capable of working.

“This is in stark contrast to the work of the SNP Scottish Government who are building a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect. With the full powers, we can do so much more.”

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AUTISM UPDATE – MEETING WITH UK MINISTER

Following my debate on Autism and Unemployment, I met with Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work, Justin Tomlinson MP.

In his response during the debate he advised he will be pressing the Office of National Statistics to begin recording the amount of people with Autism Spectrum Conditions in employment. I have now asked when we can expect to see these figures. I feel this will not happen overnight, but I do believe he is committed to delivering on this promise.

I pressed him on the autism awareness training initiative the department claim to be delivering to frontline staff in Jobcentres and to assessors. I am yet to be convinced the training is adequate and nothing more than a minimal briefing which is far from good enough. Therefore, I have requested that he arrange for me to attend one of the training sessions.

I have suggested the DWP provide a quiet room within Jobcentres which the Minister has agreed to consider. I also asked for a review of sanctions to achieve a more flexible approach in terms of appointments for those with ASCs.

I have reiterated the desperate need for PIP and ESA forms to be redesigned and simplified which he has agreed is required and is planning to continue working on what are currently very complex forms.

On behalf of my constituents with ASCs and people across Scotland, I will continue to press on these issues until the UK Government ensures those with ASCs are no longer excluded from accessing employment and where necessary have equal access to social security when they cannot work.

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ESA Claims: Figures

Figures for ESA claims are shocking. It shows that the majority of appeals which reach Tribunal (45,000 out of 71,000) are overturned in favour of the person claiming.

Prior to this, 300,000 out of 350,000 of the mandatory reconsiderations (the step before a Tribunal) are rejected. Only a minority go onto appeal at Tribunal.

The UK Government are relying on people being unaware of how the welfare system works so that they fail their reconsideration and also on grinding people down through a long, drawn out, complicated process so that they do not pursue their claim to the end where most people actually win.

Do not allow the Tories to get away with it. You have the right to support and care. People who seek help from agencies are more likely to have a decision made in their favour.

If you have had issues recently with your claim for ESA or PIP and need to submit a mandatory reconsideration, get in touch with my office on 01698 337191 or at marion.fellows.mp@pariament.uk.

If you have failed your reconsideration and need to appeal to Tribunal or want to make a new claim, please contact North Lanarkshire Welfare Rights (Motherwell: 332100; Wishaw: 332100) or the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (265349).

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This Week (2018): #2

Monday 22nd January

It was back to work for Marion on Monday, as she continues to work hard for the people of the Motherwell & Wishaw constituency.



Tuesday 23rd January

On Tuesday, Marion met with Margaret Ann Jones from Motherwell & Wishaw Women’s Aid to hear more about the valuable work the organisation does in supporting vulnerable women and their children.

It was also a day for receiving answers from the UK Government, as Marion had a variety of questions answered on Carillion in Scotland, ESA tribunals, ESA appeals, and the issue of affordability for repatriating a family member who passes on abroad.



Wednesday 24th January

As well as joining the Deputy First Minister on a visit to Dalziel High, Marion was busy working from her constituency office in Motherwell.

Additionally, more answers to questions raised by the Motherwell & Wishaw MP were received from the UK Government, with Marion raising the issue of adequate measures being in place for when ex-servicemen and women claim to have been the victims of abuse during their time in the armed forces.



Thursday 25th January

Thursday saw Marion speaking out against the Tory austerity which continues to plunge children into poverty (full story here), saying:

The Tory UK Government’s austerity obsession is holding Scotland back from eliminating child poverty. Our children are paying the price while the Tories’ friends, donors and the wealthy get richer.

The SNP Scottish Government has been doing what it can with the powers it has including establishing a £50million child poverty fund and expanding free childcare and early learning so that parents are able to work to support their family.

The Scottish Government is also mitigating against welfare cuts including the Bedroom Tax, maintaining Council Tax Benefit, and increasing the child allowance within the Council Tax reduction scheme helping 140,000 children across Scotland.

The SNP’s efforts have ensured Scotland is miles ahead of the UK on tackling child poverty. But we aim to do more.

It is clear with greater powers at their disposal, the UK Government must act by reversing austerity so that children can be lifted out of poverty rather than being pushed into it.

Marion also continued to hold the UK Government account, quizzing David Mundell on the Scotland Office’s relationship with Carillion, sourcing information on how ex-servicemen and women can officially return their medals should they wish to do so, and continuing to raise the many flaws with Work Capability Assessments.



Friday 26th January