News that the government is to scrap continuous benefit reassessments for people with progressive health conditions, who can’t work, and receive the UK’s Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is welcome. Sadly, however, it does not go far enough.
The change in government policy, announced on Saturday, only concerns just one of the country’s health and disability benefits. It does not involve those people who receive Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or those who have not yet been moved to that from the old Disabled Living Allowance.
Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green MP said that new criteria, being developed will help decide who can have their ESA reassessments stopped, meaning they will not be asked again to prove they are too unwell to work.
The decision follows months of talks between a group of charities, including the MS Society, and the Department for Work and Pensions in which those charities have pushed for the government to end unnecessary reassessments of people with MS and other progressive conditions. But those campaigners cannot give up. There are still several unanswered questions, including exactly who this will apply to and how it will be awarded. The government might have accepted the argument for ESA; now it must do the same for PIP. Anything less is simply unacceptable
It is said that those eligible are likely to be people with a progressive form of MS. I hope that does not mean that it excludes people with relapsing MS, after all, ALL MS is progressive to a greater or lesser degree.
MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell welcomed the news but also recognized that the fight needs to continue. She said: “This is a victory for common sense. Frequent reassessments for people with progressive conditions like MS are too often a waste of time and money; they can leave people with uncertainty and fear of having their support taken away.
“We are therefore delighted that the government have listened to our concerns and have agreed to stop reassessments – albeit for only some ESA claimants.
“This is good news, but there’s still a lot more to do for people with MS – including improving the assessment for ESA and calling for inappropriate reassessments to stop for other vital benefits, like PIP.”