Friday 27 January 2012

Contributory Employment and Support Allowance - the Letter from Lib Dem Candidates

You may have read about the letter from over 50 approved Liberal Democrat candidates many of them having stood on the parties manifesto in 2010, urging our party in the Commons to accept the three Lords' amendments, regarding contributory Employment and Support Allowance (cESA) in the Welfare Reform Bill.

In particular the amendments call for:

  • The amount of time a person can receive cESA will be extended to at least 24 months, instead of the Government’s proposed 12 month limit.
  • Cancer patients will be exempted from the time limit.
  • The ‘youth provision’ of the benefit will be protected, meaning that young disabled people who cannot work will still be entitled to cESA without having made National Insurance contributions.
These eESA is paid for people whose conditions mean that they will at some point make a return to employment, but due to illness or disability are unable to do so at the moment. It is also paid out only to people with sufficient national insurance contributions through there working life.

The Conservatives seem to think that by cutting all benefits they are encouraging people to get back, or into work. They seem to bundle up all people living with some form of sickness or disability allowance as some work-shy, scrounging, non-productive member of society.

Those with a cESA claim are not people that fit that description indeed many will have tried to carry on working as best they could until they were unable to do so. They all for whatever reason need time to heal, maybe learn to overcome a new disability, but mostly to get well enough to return to the job they live. By in large this will be achieved within 2 years hence the higher threshold as amended by the Lords.

The one exception is cancer sufferers. As anyone who knows anyone who has cancer will tell you no cancer survivor will say that they are free of cancer until 5 years after the success of their first treatment all-clear. This medically is the time scale at which Doctors will officially say that the survivor is in remission. At times up to that point the survivor will have high and low periods and may very well at the point of 23 months find that their cancer may scarily enough return. That is the reason for the exception for cancer survivors as not even their Doctors can give them the all clear in two years and the disease can return at any point.

You can read the full letter here, and yes that is my signature second on the list of 2010 candidates.

But as my friend Caron points out, it isn't just enough for people like myself and others who are candidates, former MPs, new MPs, on the Leadership programme, GLA candidates or councillors but we need ordinary members and constituents to add their voices as well. Write to you MP, of whatever party, and urge them to support these amendments.

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