MPs have reversed several of the amendments the House of Lords made to the Welfare Reform Bill – including some that affect people with learning disabilities.
Among those decisions reversed was the Lords’ amendment to increase the 1-year limit for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) to 2 years. MPs voted by 332 to 266 to back the government’s original restriction. MPs also overturned the Lords amendment to continue to allow young disabled people who have never worked to claim ‘contributory’ ESA, which is usually only paid to those who have paid a certain amount of National Insurance.
Also overturned was an amendment limiting a reduction to the lower rate of the ‘disabled child element’ of child tax credits under the new universal credit system. However, the government said there will be transitional protection so those already in receipt of the benefit will not lose money. Learning disability charity Mencap has reacted with dismay to the news of the ESA time limit being held at 1 year.
Mencap, and other disability charities, believe that restricting the ESA to 1 year will penalise disabled people. Mencap say that many people with a learning disability want to work, but face barriers that mean finding a job within a year could be impossible.
Mencap’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, said: “We are extremely disappointed by the government's rejection of the Lord’s amendments, and failure to listen to the concerns of disabled people and their families. “Putting in placing arbitrary time limits is nothing more than a cost-saving measure, which ignores the needs and challenges which many people with a disability face when trying to find employment.”