Thursday, 14 November 2013

Roger condemns “mandatory reconsideration” of ESA claim appeals

Roger is concerned about the effects the Coalition’s introduction of “mandatory reconsideration” for Employment and Support Allowance claims will have on his constituents. Under new rules, ill or disabled people who are told that they can no longer claim ESA will have to undergo a mandatory reconsideration of their claim before they are permitted to appeal. However, no time limit has been set for how long the reconsideration process will take, and people will not be able to receive the allowance while it takes place.

Roger said: “I am extremely worried that vulnerable people, who may be seriously ill or disabled, will have the ESA to which they are perfectly entitled, and on which they depend in order to survive, stopped for a length of time to which no limits have been set. This seems to me to be grotesquely unfair, and I am concerned that it is nothing more than a penny-pinching exercise by the Department for Work and Pensions.”

Previously, ESA claimants could continue to receive the allowance while their appeal was being considered, but they will now have to either claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or try to survive without any income. However, as JSA is only available for people who are well enough to work, ESA claimants may not be eligible for it or they may be vulnerable to sanctions if their condition worsens and they are unable to search for jobs.

Roger has written to Birmingham City Council to set out his opposition to severely unwell or disabled people’s only source of income being cut off for an indeterminate time period. He commented: “I am worried that some of my constituents might fall between the two benefits, and be told that they are not ill enough to receive ESA but not well enough to receive JSA, with the result that sick and disabled people are left with no income at all.”

“I am also concerned that, if people who were claiming ESA are forced to claim JSA to keep from starving or becoming homeless, despite not actually being well enough to work, the fact that they have claimed JSA may be used as evidence against them when their ESA appeal is heard.”

Roger has called on the Government to provide more clarity about how people in this situation are expected to survive. He has tabled Parliamentary Questions asking whether people on ESA will be able to apply for any benefit other than JSA during the mandatory reconsideration period, whether the outcome of someone’s appeal will be affected if they apply for ESA, and whether the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions will consider introducing a maximum time limit for the mandatory reconsideration process.

Roger said: “I will keep up pressure on the Government to provide full clarity about what people’s options are if they are forced to undergo mandatory reconsideration. I will also continue to challenge the Coalition’s vindictive, unnecessary and counter-productive attacks on people who are not well enough to work.”

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