Benefits cuts for sick and disabled will force out of work '˜closer to poverty'

THE BENEFITS system for the sick and disabled is 'in chaos' and cuts threaten to force people 'further away from work and closer to poverty', charities have warned.

More than 30 charities and three peers have signed an open letter to Iain Duncan Smith urging him to think again. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Ahead of a House of Lords vote on the proposed reductions to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), more than 30 charities and three peers - including Paralympian Baroness (Tanni) Grey-Thompson - have signed an open letter to Iain Duncan Smith urging him to think again.

They released a survey showing that just 1 per cent of disabled people felt that the planned £30-a-week cut in ESA would motivate claimants to get a job, compared to 45 per cent who said it would mean them returning to work later.

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Meanwhile, Mind released separate figures suggesting that almost three-quarters of Department for Work and Pensions threats to cut the ESA payments of people with mental health problems were issued incorrectly.

“The system is in chaos with three-quarters of referrals for sanctions wrongly issued to people with mental health problems,” said Mind policy and campaigns manager Tom Pollard. “There is a complete lack of evidence to show that stopping, or threatening to stop, someone’s financial support is an effective approach.”

Mind joined other members of the Disability Benefits Consortium - including Mencap, Macmillan, Parkinson’s UK, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the MS Society - in signing the open letter to protest against Mr Duncan Smith’s plan to cut £30 a week from new claimants in the WRAG group of ESA in order to bring it in line with Jobseekers’ Allowance.

The letter warned the change would “undermine (the Government’s) commitment to halve the disability employment gap and push sick and disabled people further away from work and closer to poverty”.

A DWP spokesman said: “This kind of scare-mongering does nothing to help disabled people, and fails to acknowledge that existing claimants and those with the most severe disabilities will not be affected at all.

“The current system needs reform because it fails to provide the right incentives, and acts to trap people on welfare.”