Currently, you have the Working Related Activity Group (WRAG) for people that find it difficult to work for various reasons but are trying to get back to mainstream life and work, if possible.
They might have health issues that makes it hard to work but they are kind of protected by being part of this group. So that they are not forced back in to work and put under pressure. They are given time to get better and recover.
Some of these people are battling addiction to alcohol or drugs and they may be trying to build the foundation for a lasting, sustainable recovery. They may not be considered to be in a severe enough state to be awarded PIP or full disability benefits, so they are put in the WRAG and that gives them the time and space to work towards a return to mainstream life at a reasonable pace. In the last budget the Government decided that they were going to do away with this.
One thing about WRAG is that you don’t have to actively search for work as part of what is an unnecessary, soul destroying and humiliating process. You do have to go into the job centre every 3 months or so and do some job training or explain what you’ve been doing. And while you do have to go through the reassessments every 18 months, which is horrible but that is what it is , if you are deemed to have got worse you can actually apply for PIP and go on to full disability. What they are doing now, and they are getting away with this, they are taking away that safety net.
Normal benefit is around 80 pound a week, on WRAG you receive about 120 a week, which gives you that extra bit of money so that you can get yourself better by going to appointments, going to the doctors by cab if necessary, to work on yourself and lessen the stress of day to day living. This benefit is going to be stripped from people so not only are they losing money, but they are going to have pressure put on them because they are going to have to complete job searches each week. This may make people even worse and they might well end up on full supported anyway if they really can’t cope and breakdown as a result.
For many people the pressure from this move has the potential to set them back years and years. And many of the people that I talk to as part of my advocacy work are frightened. But they are also frightened of doing the assessment for PIP, which is a more intimidating and stressful than the application for WRAG. In my opinion, many of the people I am talking about won’t be able to deal with the stress and demands of regular job searches and are going to end up being sanctioned as a result. It is going to be so disruptive, just to save a bit of money in the short term. Of course, for the people whose lives are destroyed as a result of this, it is going to cost a lot more in the long term, both financially and for society in general.
Sarah White, head of policy at national disability charity Sense said
“Everyone should be able to work if they want to work, but this latest government move to make changes to the assessment process could cause huge anxiety for disabled people up and down the country.
“We’re seriously concerned that if the government does overhaul its assessment process without putting any additional support in place, then disabled people are just going to be put under more pressure to find work, without having the support they need to do so.” [Big issue 23 sept 23 Government’s new welfare reforms could cause ‘huge anxiety for disabled people]
This has got to be done by the end of 2025 with people coming back from ESA on to Universal Credit happening at the same time. You are looking at 700,000 to a million people whose lives are going to be seriously impacted in a negative way for a policy that just is not right.
There are some great articles done by The Big Issue on this issue. They’ve got some fantastic stories that you can find online at the moment. Here are a few of them:
It seems to me that Universal Credit is a draconian system designed to be punitive. And although it has become slightly softer as the result of the response to it, it is still a punitive system.