Duncan Lewis


Asylum, Detention/ Fast Track

Managed Migration, Public Law

Disabled benefit seekers under ESA would lose 70 percent of benefits a week if they do not try to get a job

Date: (4 September 2012)    |    

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Under tough new plans drawn up by the Department of Work and Pensions sick and disabled benefit claimants could lose around 70 per cent of their weekly employment support allowance if they fail to go to job interviews or look for work.
The proposed measures are going to more than double the current fine which is £28.15 a week to £70 a week if they are found to be in breach of their agreement with their job supervisor.
Under the proposals, from December 3 the penalty will jump to £71 a week out of a maximum allowance award of £99.15.
A draft template letter seen by the Guardian warned that from 3 December 2012, the law was changing and people could lose more money, for a longer period of time, if they didn not attend and take part in work-focused interviews, without a good reason; carry out work-related activities that their adviser asks them to do, without a good reason.
New legislation will also make it possible for the Department to compel the unemployed to do work experience.
Not everyone claiming the benefit will be eligible for the tough new fines. There are some who are most unlikely to return to workplace in their near future hence have fewer conditions placed on their benefit.
But others who are assessed and are found to be capable of moving towards work immediately can be fined for the breaches.
Latest figures show that 340,000 people were receiving the ESA benefit. Between 1 June 2011 and 31 May this year, 11,130 of them were sanctioned for an average of seven weeks.
A DWP spokesperson said the government was in favour of toughening the benefits regime.
He added that the department was not asking people in the ESA Work-Related Activity Group to do anything different, but it was proposing changes to the regulations as they were making a transition towards Universal Credit.
The regulations were still to be discussed in the House. Voluntary work experience was something the department was looking into but no decisions have been finalized he added.