This week the Conservative Party held our annual Conference, which today concludes in Birmingham. As usual there have been a number of announcements of new policies. There was one in particular that I was very pleased to hear.
As your Member of Parliament a great deal of my time is taken helping and supporting people who encounter issues with the systems for claiming benefits there are entitled to.
One of the issues that I most often encounter has been with constituents encountering delays and processing issues with their Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claims.
ESA was brought in by the last Labour Government in 2008 as a replacement to Incapacity Benefit. It is the benefit that people claim when they need support as they are unable to work due to illness. When ESA was first brought in there were many problems with its operation, which the Coalition Government set to fixing, not least the lack of focus on mental health disorders. ESA in 2016 is much more fit for purpose than in 2008 but there is still more work to be done.
One particular issue that has concerned me since I have been an MP has been the requirement for ESA claimants to be re-assessed regularly even when their condition was clearly a long term illness or disability with little chance of improving. I was pleased then that last weekend the Work and Pensions Secretary announced that people claiming ESA who have chronic conditions, that are unlikely to get well, will no longer have to attend repeat assessments to determine whether they are still eligible to claim the benefit. That people did have to attend multiple assessments, when they had conditions that were never going to get better, and in fact often only get worse, did strike me as being counter-productive and something which hindered those who we should be trying to help. Since becoming MP I have lobbied DWP Ministers many times on this issue and am pleased to see that the Government has now listened and made the changes that were needed.
The challenge now is to ensure our benefits system remains there to not only help and provide for those people who are unable to return to work but also support those who are able to get back and find a job. I am a passionate believer that for the vast majority of people claiming benefit, we should be doing more for them than just paying them money to live. Providing a package of support, not just monetary, for those who are able to return to work is a much more positive way of helping those who need it. I will continue to work both in Cornwall and in Westminster to ensure the benefits system is one that is fair for all.
As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events