Anyone who tuned into Newsnight Scotland last night will have seen an excruciating interview with Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary of State. Here was a UK government minister who was not on top of his brief.
Asked by Gordon Brewer how many people in Scotland would be affected by the changes to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) announced as part of the Spending Review 2010, he couldn’t answer. He was pressed several times but could only waffle and practise the long established art of obfuscation.
Appalling. Because the impact of this change, like so many of the welfare reform measures, could be terrible for many families and individuals. When asked what might happen if someone was moved off ESA but was unable to find work, he couldn’t answer that either.
Fortunately, it’s not that hard to find out.
At least 91,000 individuals will be affected and the final tally might be much higher. The number affected could be well over 100,000 and even as high as 200,000. It will depend on how many shift from claimant status for incapacity benefit on to contributions based ESA and how many actual incapacity benefit recipients shift to this form of the ESA. (What is undeniable is that everyone currently on incapacity benefit will move on to some form of ESA). It’s worth bearing in mind that this figure refers to individuals: if you factor in families and other dependents, the impact of this change will be higher still.
So there you have it, Mr Moore. At least 91,000, more likely in excess of 100,000. Lifted from your own government figures. Shame you couldn’t be bothered to find out for yourself.
(The 20 October edition of Newsnight Scotland should be available on the iplayer for anyone keen to revel in the Scottish Secretary’s discomfort).