Sad day for democracy

Yesterday the House of Commons voted to balance the deficit on the backs of people with Parkinson's, and other disabilities and long-term conditions, and voted to support the Welfare Reform Bill's cuts to the sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Worse still, the Government is using an archaic parliamentary rule to ensure that the Bill cannot return to Lords for any further votes, undermining the usual democratic process.

The main effect of the Bill is to limit contributory ESA for people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) to 1 year. When the Bill was in the Lords they had voted to increase this to a more reasonable 2 years.

We think time-limiting a sickness benefit to one year is unfair to people with Parkinson's.

During the debate, when Dame Anne Begg was interrupted by noise from other MPs, she countered: "I'm sorry that you find all this very funny. The people with Parkinson's disease, the people with MS do not find this funny. It's their lives that are being undermined. It's them that will lack an independent income."

We couldn't have said it better ourselves, Dame Begg.

What does this mean for people with Parkinson's?

The year limit does not affect people who are in the Support Group (those who are not expected to work).

But many people with Parkinson's are in the Work Related Activity Group, where they are deemed capable of re-entering work subject to receiving a lot of support because of their condition. Only 6% of people in this group find work within a year.

The Bill also means that on the day of the introduction of this rule, in April 2012, contributory ESA will stop for many people who have received it for a year or more.

It may be that there are alternative benefits for people affected by this change. But entitlement to income-related ESA, or any other benefits, will depend on the circumstances of the claimants, and of their partners or spouses.

So anyone who thinks that this may affect them should seek advice now, from a Citizens Advice Bureau, or from our confidential helpline 0808 800 0303.

This time limit means that it's even more essential that everyone living with Parkinson's is correctly assessed for ESA, so they are in the right group for them.

We need evidence from people affected by the inaccurate ESA assessments – tell us your stories by emailing

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