The ESA cut is part of a drive to close the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people, although the target to achieve this in 2020 has been scrapped. Almost everybody assumes that most people placed in the Work related activity group will eventually get better and move into work. Nobody could have been more convinced of this that all the Tory MPs who voted for the ESA cut.
However, a 2014 Upper Tribunal judgment throws a different light on this. The 3 judge panels did not make a judgement on the suitability of placing some disabled people in the WRAG, but interpreted the law. This is what they said:
Although Mrs L had not put her case in quite this way, it would be fair to state it like this. The tribunal has accepted that I am not able to sustain sufficient activity to be capable of work and my condition is not going to improve, so what is the point of making me undertake activity to prepare me for work of which I will never be capable? The answer is that the law is not structured in that way. There are claimants who are not capable of work and never will be capable of work but whose condition and disabilities are not such that they can satisfy the conditions for the support group. To put it another way, the support group is not for those who will never be capable of work. It is for a narrower category. That may explain why, by Mrs L’s report, her Jobcentre Plus adviser has not asked her to undertake any work-related activity.
You can read the entire judgment here:”[i]
In other terms, claimants are placed in the WRAG not because they may be able to work again at some stage, but because they do not tick the right boxes to be assigned to the Support Group. These people who may have a progressive illness or have a prognosis of 2 years or over, which DWP recognised means unlikely to work again[ii] will suffer from April 2017 a cut of 1/3 of their income in exchange for employment support they do not need or cannot use. We know from a FOI request that 5,000 claimants have been in the WRAG since 2008[iii]. And DWP own figures show that 388,700 claimants (37%) have been placed in the WRAG since 2008 with a prognosis of 2 years or more[iv]. (click on the picture)