My Life My Choice volunteer, Ria Phillips, spoke to MLMC members on the ESA permitted work scheme to find out the impact it’s had on their lives…
What is the ESA permitted work scheme?
ESA stands for employment and support allowance. This is a government scheme which offers people financial support and personalised help. Initially there is a work capability assessment phase, from which people will either be placed into the ‘work related activity group’ or ‘the support group’.
The work related activity group, you are considered not well enough to work at the moment but could move into work in the future if supported. People in this group will have to attend regular work focused interviews with an adviser.
The support group is for people who are assessed as unable to work and they will not have to attend interviews.
What is the permitted work scheme?
Someone on the ESA scheme is permitted to work up to 16 hours a week and earn up to £115.50 a week, for 52 weeks or less. If you are in the support group then this work can be continued for any length of time.
Why is this scheme important?
This ESA permitted work scheme is really important for people with learning disabilities as it allows them to work and earn a certain amount of money without affecting their benefits. This is important because people with learning disabilities often find it difficult to get full-time consistent work but they may be able to find freelance or short term work. This work is often inconsistent, and wouldn’t allow them to earn enough money to give up their benefits. Therefore the permitted work scheme can be helpful as it allows people to have consistent benefits and also have the freedom to take small work opportunities when they arise. This an important as a short term solution but in the long term it’s important that people with learning disabilities who are willing and able to work are supported to find full time, reliable and rewarding employment.
Aim of the video
As part of the wider employment campaign, this video aims to explore the views of 3 people with learning disabilities who are on the ESA permitted work scheme. The video looks at why the ESA permitted work scheme is important, why working is valuable and the effect the ESA scheme has had on their lives and what it means to them as individuals.
Overview of the video
Dawn, Shaun and Pam all have part time jobs and are on the ESA permitted work scheme. They enjoy working for a variety of reasons; Pam explains that working allows her to “make big decisions that I’ve never done in my life before”. Dawn enjoys “helping people have a voice” and Shaun enjoys the fact that “I get to see my friends… and get to meet people that are new to me”.
Pam feels that working has “made me more positive, I can actually go out and do something for myself”. Shaun explains that working has made him feel “motivated”.
In terms of the ESA scheme, to Pam the ESA scheme “means a lot to me, it means that I can work without having it affect my benefits”. For Dawn the ESA scheme is important because she “wouldn’t be able to work full time” although she did work at Tesco’s for 18 years but due to a shoulder injury she can no longer work full time. However, with the ESA scheme she is now “working part time” and sees this as “a good thing”. And similarly for Shaun who explains “I have epilepsy… so for me it means I can work part time without having to over do it”.
Shaun also explains that “without ESA, it would be really hard for me to get a job because the system is rigged… it annoys me a lot and I get really frustrated by the system”. He further explains that he feels that it’s difficult for people with learning disabilities to get a full-time job and he feels this is “because I don’t think the government are really helping them”.
Overall Dawn, Pam and Shaun feel positively about the ESA scheme as it has allows them to work part-time without affecting their benefits. However this is not a long term solution to the fact that lots of people with learning disabilities want to work but are not able to find full-time jobs. There are only 7% of people with learning disabilities currently in paid employment, while 65% of people with learning disabilities want to work (NHS Learning Disability Toolkit, NHS England, 2015).