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Ministers consider employment and support allowance cuts


Internal documents found by the BBC have shown that ministers are considering severely cutting the main Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) sickness benefit.

Claimants who are judged to be suitable for work with support may only receive 50p a week above the current Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). This is a drastic cut, as current recipients of ESA get £30 a week more than that.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the ESA proposals were not government policy.

The papers have also shown that the Government has had to hire an extra 100 healthcare professionals to carry out fitness-for-work tests, as there is a current backlog of more than 600,000 cases. They are also looking to replace the current contractor ATOS who carry out these tests with an American firm, Maximus. ATOS reached an agreement with the government earlier this year to leave its contract early, due to the back log of cases.

Currently, approximately two million people claim ESA. Claimants have to undergo a work capability assessment to determine whether they are eligible and at what level.

A spokesman for the DWP said:
"We are committed to supporting those people who are able to work to make the positive move into employment.

"The current work capability assessment contract was inherited from the previous government - and we have taken numerous steps to improve it. We will shortly announce a new provider. No one should doubt our commitment to ensuring that people who need an assessment get the best possible service and are seen in the quickest possible time."

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