Citizens Advice Scotland is extremely concerned about the potential negative impact of the abolition of the ESA Work Related Activity component. The removal of support for the additional costs faced by disabled people through this component could have the effect of creating additional barriers to them gaining employment. The majority of people affected by the move are far from the labour market, with 73% of Scottish claimants in the ESA Work Related Activity Group having been in receipt of the benefit for more than two years, and in some cases will never be fit for work again.
CAS is already concerned about the cases where loss of income from benefit claimants has made their health deteriorate and we are concerned that this move will worsen that. A number of the clients in the WRAG have existing mental health issues which have worsened due to the stress of the process, and we are also concerned that vulnerable clients who are unable to work will be left without any income at all, if their ESA is sanctioned. This has the potential to make a number of people less fit to seek employment than they currently are.
CAS is not convinced, based on existing evidence of previous changes to the benefits system, that reducing financial support to claimants will necessarily have a positive effect on employment levels. Given that people who receive ESA are not fit for work due to illness or disability, it will not be possible for many to work, even if ‘positive behavioural change’ occurred.
Further unintended consequences of the changes to ESA is that there may be an increase in requests for Mandatory Reconsiderations and appeals against decisions not to place people in the Support Group, which risks increasing delays in the system.