I have Multiple sclerosis and had an unrelated brain haemorrhage in 2012, all of which has severely affected my mobility.So you see, I have a personal interest in writing to my MP about the Bill ( Incidentally, next week I will be one of about 8 disabled people giving evidence at the APPG MS Employment Review at the House of Commons).
The bill she is referring to is one that will have huge financial implications for her. Here is Mike Freers reply. I have highlighted a key passage
Subject: RE: Welfare Reform and Work Bill, Clauses 13 and 14
Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2016 13:23:40 +0000Mike Freer MPConservative Member of Parliament for Finchley & Golders GreenHouse of CommonsLondon SW1A 0AAThank you for contacting me about people with Multiple Sclerosis and the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and its Universal Credit (UC) equivalent.
In the Summer Budget 2015, the Chancellor announced that, from April 2017, the rate of benefit paid to new claims for ESA and Universal Credit (UC) with limited capability for work will be aligned with the standard rate of Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA). This change only affects new claims made after that date. Importantly, this reform will not affect people in the Support Group in ESA or claimants with limited capability for work and work-related activity in UC.
Those in the WRAG currently receive additional cash payments but little employment support appropriate for their needs. The Government is proposing to recycle some of the money currently spent on cash payments, which are not actually achieving the desired effect of helping people move closer to the labour market, into practical support that will make a genuine difference to individual's life chances. This new funding will be worth £100 million by 2020/21.
Those with the most severe work limiting health conditions and disabilities are placed in the Support Group in ESA and have been assessed as having limited capability for work and work-related activity in UC. In both cases, these claimants will continue to receive an additional payment in their ESA or UC. These additional payments are also exempt from the freeze on working-age benefits and the Benefit Cap.
The vast majority of people with Multiple Sclerosis are placed in the Support Group. In fact, the most recent figures showed that of 20,800 MS sufferers who had been assessed for ESA, 19,600 were in the Support Group as of February 2015, which means around 95 per cent of claimants who had been assessed are getting the maximum financial support for claimants out of work due to a health condition or disability.
For those ESA claimants who are placed into the WRAG and UC claimants determined to have limited capability for work, a trained professional has advised that they are capable of some work-related activity. However, if an individual's condition deteriorates they may have their eligibility reassessed. On this basis they may then be moved into the Support Group in ESA, or the UC equivalent.
I believe that the Government's proposed reforms to ESA, WRAG and the UC equivalent are the right thing to do for claimants because it is a duty of government to support those who want to work to do so. I would also reiterate that those already claiming ESA or UC will not be affected by the change.
I hope this has also gone some way to explaining the ways the Government is ensuring the system protects those with the most serious conditions, such as [insert relevant condition], including exempting the Support Group component in ESA and its UC equivalent from the benefits freeze and the Benefit Cap.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.Yours sincerely,Mike Freer MPConservative Member of Parliament for Finchley and Golders Green
020 7219 7071 (Westminster)
020 8445 5875 (Finchley)
As you can see, this is a standard draft letter and Mike Freer couldn't even be bothered to [insert relevant condition] and Mike Freer had no interest in speaking to his constituent and finding out how the changes would affect her or listening to her story. He simply wanted to spout the party line and put his fingers in his ears. Personally I think MP's should stand up for the most vulnerable people in our society. I think they should stand up for people like Harriet. Even if they can't support them, they should at least take the trouble to listen to their story and give them the decency of a reply that meets their circumstances. Harriet doesn't need a lecture on what the bill does. She knows far better than Mike Freer as unlike him, she is directly affected.
Harriet emailed Mike Freer to state that she was not impressed. Mr Compassion replied as follows
To: Harriet Connides
Subject: Re: Welfare Reform and Work Bill, Clauses 13 and 14
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2016 09:26:43 +0000Dear Ms ConnidesThank you for your emails. I note your comments about a standard response but of course this is to be expected when responding to standard campaign emails.I take the point on proof reading but mistakes do happen especially as I receive 250 emails a day and I respond to most personally.Sincerely
Mike Freer MP
So as you can see, Mike can't even be bothered to apologise for his error. He clearly thinks Harriet doesn't warrent a proper reply. She added
He wrote back a paragraph saying that there was nothing he could do. A few days later my husband got a entirely unsolicited three page letter from him about Europe!
That is compassion for you, Barnet Tory style. Personally it makes me sick