NRAS Statement on Disability Benefits

Good afternoon,

Please see below a statement from NRAS.


Having received direct correspondence from members, as well as discussion on social media, NRAS is aware of ongoing concern amongst our members and supporters about the government proposals for reform of Disability Benefits. Linked to this has been questioning of the suitability of Theresa May as our Patron. We would like to take the opportunity to address these concerns.

In the last week, several Conservative MPs have been asked to step down as patrons of charities after their vote in favour of the Welfare & Work Reform Bill, with the attendant cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) cited as the reason the charities no longer considering them as suitable for that role. We will not be asking Theresa May to step down and hope the reasons for that will appear clear upon reading this statement; we have written to Theresa raising concerns at the government rhetoric around Disability Benefits and to discuss how we will work together in the future.

NRAS has enjoyed and benefitted from Theresa’s involvement in many ways, on a professional and personal basis, from the very earliest days of the charity. As our `local’ MP it has been a welcome and entirely non-partisan relationship. The measures enacted by the current government, or any other, become of concern to us in direct proportion to their effect on our intended beneficiaries and the wellbeing of the sector and the charity itself. That concern has been increasing substantially with the advent of unwarranted restrictions on charities and research bodies in receipt of government grants and the widening impact of austerity on the morale and practice of a large number of healthcare professionals we work with. Irrespective of the rationale informing decisions supported by the Cabinet, the current furore over disability benefits is giving rise to a perspective among our members that this is a government that is either out of touch with, or careless of, the impacts these decisions are having on a growing number of vulnerable people.

On 11th March, the Government announced its conclusion following a consultation on changes to the way in which Aids & Appliances are taken into consideration during assessments for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). In the week following the announcement of this minor reform, the aforementioned Welfare & Work Reform was passed for Royal Assent, and on the Wednesday, the Chancellor presented the Budget. Between all of these events we have shared the concern of our members and supporters about how they will be affected.

Following the passing of the Welfare & Work Reform Bill, there has been particular concern around the cut by £30 a week of Employment Support Alliance (which takes effect in April 2017) for those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), this and the changes to PIP will affect those with RA and JIA. Since plans for both these reforms were first announced, NRAS has engaged with the government and parliamentarians to ensure the voices of those with RA/JIA are heard. With our support, nearly 100 of our members wrote to their MP to make them aware of how the £30 a week cut to ESA might impact them whilst 3 of our members took part in the Disability Benefit Consortium’s (DBC) mass lobby of parliament in January of this year on the same topic. We are members of the DBC. When the consultation was launched on reform to PIP, our Policy & Public Affairs Officer, Conn O’Neill, was the only charity from the musculoskeletal sector who attended the specially convened consultation session for patient organisations organised by the Department for Work and Pensions.

At NRAS we pride ourselves on being rational and reasoned in our response to government proposals and actions. We have a small but well regarded Policy & Public Affairs team who have worked productively with the Labour, Coalition and now Conservative governments. We believe the welfare system, including specific Disability benefits as discussed above, but also other benefits which are often claimed by disabled people, provide a vital safety net for those who find themselves in need, at no fault of their own. We do however see it as our duty, on behalf of those making legitimate claims that the system be robust and its integrity be upheld. We listened to the arguments from both sides during the consultation on the PIP assessment changes in regard to aids and appliances and came to the conclusion that this particular reform was sensible – see further explanation below. Despite agreeing with the Government on this particular incremental reform, we are still deeply concerned about the wider rhetoric around Disability Benefits.

We were alarmed to hear in the Budget that the Government intended to be spending £4bn less on PIP per year by 2020. Upon first analysis, we thought this was ‘clever accounting’ by the Chancellor but we must make clear that, even if only hypothetical for the sake of balancing the books, we are in agreement with the wider charity sector that it is reprehensible to suggest disabled people take the brunt of cuts whilst the most well-off receive tax cuts. We recognised that if £4bn per year really were to be saved, significant reforms (requiring separate legislation) would need to be made and that there would be separate opportunities for engagement further down the line.

The minor changes to the way in which Aids & Appliances are considered during the assessment for PIP will bring about a small cost-saving but we would be surprised if this were to be even £1m per year, it certainly will not be £4bn per year. We find it disappointing that the media and the Government have allowed the conflation of this completely hypothetical £4bn per year saving in the budget with the separate incremental reform to the PIP assessment process announced on 11th March which are two entirely separate issues. With limited column inches it is easy for the media to blurr these two stories.

An independent review of PIP by Dr Paul Litchfield identified that there were individuals securing their PIP award either mostly or exclusively from points relating to their use of Aids & Appliances (A&A). The government consulted on several options to reform this aspect of the assessment and so ensure the originally intended rigour of the assessment process be upheld – a person’s needs should be assessed holistically and not just based on their use of aids and appliances. We agreed with Dr. Litchfield’s opinion that a thorough assessment for PIP ought to identify an individual’s need without exclusive reference to their use of an A&A, as was the case during Disability Living Allowance (DLA) assessments. We accept that assessments are not always as thorough as they ought to be but do not see it is right to maintain the flawed A&A aspect to make up for failings elsewhere. The new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb MP, has now backtracked on this changes and so there will be no changes to the assessment process in the foreseeable future. We continue to work with the government and the private companies conducting PIP and ESA assessments to make them better aware of RA/JIA and of fluctuating and progressive conditions more generally.

In our measured support for some reform to the assessment of PIP with regard to use of Aids and Appliances, we were out of step with the charity sector at large including our colleagues in the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC). We declined to add our name to a letter of condemnation sent to the Rt Hon Justin Tomlinson MP, Minister for Disabled People, on 11th March. We are now seeking to meet with ministers to allow the presentation of the strengthening feelings of our members about the wider reforms.

I hope that the above clarifies our position. As a charity we work very hard for the RA and JIA community and will continue to represent their interests in the most productive way possible.

With best wishes,

Ailsa Bosworth MBE

Founder and Chief Executive - NRAS

49 Replies

  • Thank you for your informative information i personally feel it's is incorrectly to keep a patron that has not support the cuts to ESA as this appears to cancel out any good will that was previously done

  • I hope that Mrs May does the right thing and resign from our group as this planned £30 cut would have affected me and its all i have to live on. Thankfully that is not going to happen,but how long before Mr Osbourne tries again to take money from the disabled. I don't have the energy to fight the goverment over these rules i wish i could. If i could work i would and i would love to be able to work, If you want to show anyone my reply to your post feel free.

  • I think it gone through royal ascent the financial privalge law i could have got it wrong!

  • I'm sorry to say that, as far as I am aware, the £30 cut is still going through. It's the PIP payments that have been reversed.

  • I'm afraid goldfinch is right' sylvi. The £30 cut to people receiving ESA and in the work related activity group (WRAG) is still going ahead. :(

    It is utterly shameful that the NRAS is not opposing these cuts.

  • I signed the petition against these cuts and i have had a reply from them. It states that it is nonly new claiments who will be affected by these changes. There is a lot more to the reply i have had and i will see if i can copy it and post it here later.xxxxx

  • That's right Sylvi, it only affects new claimants. You're 'lucky' because you are already diagnosed, but imagine you had developed RA more recently and had just become too sick to work... Those newly ill and newly disabled people will get £30/week less than you. :(

  • Its not nice darling and yes i am still angry about it,but i did sign the

  • I have left a post on your FB page, I'm very upset about Theresa May and you as a charity describe the latest PiP reform, as minor. Shows lack of compassion and understanding. It's not minor to people who could have lost their PiP because of points. Then, you are accepting that there will be more reform. Instead of accepting it, fight against it!! You're not representing your members effectively and I'm very disappointed.

  • I have also left a comment. I am appalled that NRAS supported the cuts in PIP announced in the budget, and that you refused to support other charities in their opposition. I do not understand what Theresa May can give to us, when she is supporting this governments' determination to take away disabled benefits in order to give the top 1O% tax reductions.

    On matters like this I think you should be consulting your membership, and then fighting for what they want. That is the function of a charity.

  • I would like to clarify that NRAS supported the minor reform to the way in which the assessment process was carried out as announced on 11th March. We did not support the £4bn of cuts suggested in the budget and nor did we think they were realistically ever going to come to fruition as for cuts on this scale to be made would require separate reforms to be voted on in parliament not as a part of this budget.

    The minor reform to the assessment process would perhaps have saved the Chancellor £1m a year at most and so we are disappointed at the way in which the media and some politicians are deliberately confusing this minor reform with the completely separate issue of £4bn cuts being proposed.

  • Sorry but I am afraid that it is you that has this wrong.......this"minor" reform would have meant that many people would have been disqualified from PIP.

    How can you be right and all other disabled charities be wrong?

    Even IDS has admitted it.

  • I am sorry but we are not interested how the government reviews the reform or the £1 million saving. That saving was coming from disabled people who exactly are you representing. You seem to be fighting the battle for the Tories. I thought you were representing us.

  • The government has now said it has 'listened' but they actually didn't listen to the consultation responses. Many disability groups and individuals, including myself, responded in strong terms that these changes shouldn't be made. The £30 cut in ESA is a devastating cut for many disabled people. The idea that it is going to push people with ill health into work is ludicrous. It will push ill people into poverty. I think you should ask Theresa May to resign on this cut alone. I am appalled that you haven't and you are certainly not representing me and other people with RA. So who are you actually representing? Yourselves?

  • It is not a 'minor' reform. You have misunderstood the way PIP is assessed, and the fact that the very limited set of criteria are indicators of a much wider range of problems, and the fact that this benefit is not tapered (like tax credits) but is 'all or nothing', so that losing one or two points would result in thousands of your members losing ALL of their PIP. You need to check your facts and consult with your members; and since you have totally failed to represent people with RA in this case, thank goodness even the government has decided this is a step too far!

  • Well put as a member of nras I totally agree with Hatshepsut

  • I agree too june with what has been said by hatshepsut ...not good really....

  • It's an absolute disgrace. This minister has consistently voted for every benefit cut. What's more alarming is your contention that you believe the changes that have been made and were to be made are minor and correct. Since when do you agree with detrimental policy that adversely affects the people you are supposed to be representing. shame on you. Do you read the angst from people on this site terrified that we have to reapply through the PIP process, already in pain and suffering this disabling illness that controls our every waking moment, and it appears you think that's right that we should reapply. Theresa May is a disgrace and so are the NRAS.


  • What nras sees as a small change was incorrect as to loose the points for aids in the personal care would have closed the door to any help with daily living needs its not about grab rails and toilet seat but getting the helping hand that we need

  • Yes, you are right. It was supposed to be used as an indicator to the needs of someone disabled. Quite frankly, if you can't dress yourself or get up from a normal toilet, you will be struggling in other areas of your life. I read the consultation and they were implying that the cost of the aids and adaptations is not an ongoing expense and, therefore, they didn't need PIP. It's appalling they think that giving someone a raised toilet seat is enough. They cited a man with COPD not able to dress himself or a woman who needed a perching stool to prepare food as people who didn't need any more money. No mention of all the other expenses those of us with difficulties have to pay. I could list a whole load but I expect you all know! The crucial thing that no-one has talked about is that people who are in this position are unable to work long term. So how do they pay for day to day stuff, like clothing, household repairs, household goods, holidays (if they are lucky)?

  • It looks like a proper list needs to be made of what disabled people need and its a shock how life changing it all is until it hit me I didn't have a clue

  • I think disabled people's needs change all the time. Mine do. You can't legislate on the basis of one or two needs and, of course, everyone's needs are different.

    The whole point of DLA was to give people independence. There used to be a time where people would have to go and live in a home, or be totally reliant on state care. With DLA or PiP you can organise what support and care you need, independent of the state. You can spend it on a cleaner (which you would certainly need if you can't dress yourself or get of the toilet) or you could spend it on ready prepared food. It's your choice.

  • Sometimes NRAS you have to follow your heart not your head, and do what's right. Reasoned argument is all very well and good, but you are a membership body so the views of the members are actually more important.

    Perception is reality after all.....

  • They need to follow their head too, helix! They have completely misunderstood how PIP is assessed, and overlooked the fact that the criteria are proxy indicators for a much wider range of functional problems.

  • This response from NRAS is truly shocking. They basically say "You're all wrong, we're right. We agree with the PIP cuts and they're 'only minor'. Tough luck". Teresa May should not be patron, and whoever wrote this letter needs a reality check!

  • Politicians are not suitable people to be patrons of organisations likeNRAS. End of. We need to be able to negotiate with them but not as privileged interlocateurs. I would consider my membership if this continues

  • What a change to read a balanced article on this rather than the usual emotive ones. One way of reducing costs, as with any benefit, is to make sure those who need it receive it and those with false claims are prosecuted. This may only cut a small amount of the bill, but anything is worth it to protect those in need. I've had to cut my hours at work, but can just manage (I don't have a partner to help). If I have to cut any more I would be in trouble without financial help.

  • Sadly I read a political article, from the head of a charity, who appears to value the support of Theresa May MP, more than many of us who are members of NRAS.

    Like many others I feel aggrieved.


  • Unfortunately, this article is not balanced, it is just plain wrong. I am not sure whether its author has misunderstood what was proposed, or whether they have a vested interest. Like you, benijen, I have had to reduce my hours at work over the last few years as I have become more disabled, and in Sept I was advised by my OT to claim PIP. I claimed and was awarded it in Jan. Under the proposed changes, I would have lost it again. There are tens of thousands of people who currently qualify, who no longer would.

    This has nothing to do with prosecuting 'false claims'; rather, it was a back-door way of raising the threshold for PIP so that fewer people qualify. And when even the minister for work and pensions thinks the proposals were 'not defensible' and 'distinctly politically rather than in the national economic interest', it is extraordinary that the NRAS should disagree - and decide to be the ONLY disability charity to support these cuts.

  • NRAS completely misunderstand the point we are making, & again use the term 'minor'. Can you not understand that a minor reform can be actually major to that one person who loses PiP because they have for example a raised toilet seat? It's that fickle how the PiP assessment process works. But the NRAS wouldn't know as they clearly are not a charity with their members best interests at heart. I'm flabbergasted at NRAS, I really am & very saddened that the charity will not listen to its members. How arrogant of them.

  • Incredibly arrogant. They are a lone voice: all the other disability charities and even the former minister for work and pensions say the proposals were 'indefensible'! What makes the author(s) of this letter think they know better than those people, as well as most of their members?!

  • There can be no justification for the stance taken by NRAS, isolated from every other disability charity, and defending the indefensible.

    No amount of "good works" can disguise the fact that they have encouraged and facilitated legislation that takes vital support away from their membership, and other disabled people. I am ashamed to be a member. NOT IN MY NAME.

  • We acknowledge some of you feel very strongly about this issue; for many this is a very personal issue.

    NRAS, founded in 2001, has 15 years experience of successfully influencing government and doing so as a critical friend of the government of the day whatever shade that may be. We support people with RA/JIA in meeting their MP/MSP/AM, we provide e-actions tools on the NRAS website and when appropriate we join in cross-sector lobbying activities with other charities.

    Our positions are informed by dialogue with members and supporters. NRAS staff regularly visit our groups across the country and get a feel for the mood on the ground. Our Chief Executive has lived with RA for over 30 years, she and others with RA/JIA are involved at every level in the charity including on the board of trustees.

    We would however like to sincerely apologise for the use of the word ‘minor’. In our statement, we were referring to the changes announced on 11th March (a week before the budget) to the PIP assessment and the way aids and appliances were considered. We used the word minor as a comparative between this suggested incremental reform to uphold the rigour of the assessment process and the separately announced plan to save £4bn on PIP per year by 2020. We know that the impact of any change on the individual is in no way minor and our use of the word as a comparative on reflection was inappropriate. We were never supportive of the £4bn of PIP cuts and welcomed the swift u-turn on this, similarly we actively opposed the cuts to ESA within the Welfare & Work Reform Bill as detailed in our last statement.

    We are saddened that some of our RA family who have always joined in reasoned debate with us have taken such a confrontational approach to their charity on this occasion. The NRAS office is a small team of just 20 staff, we value the relationship we have with our members enormously and all strive to make life better for people the charity represents.

    We are actively seeking a meeting with the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. We will publicise this meeting in advance and take into account the feeling of our members and supporters in our dialogue with him and his department on an ongoing basis.

    To clarify, the role of patron is a non-political one and Theresa May has been NRAS patron since day one supporting the charity as a national organisation based locally within her constituency of Maidenhead. Respecting her position as a cabinet minister, our relationship with Theresa has been an exclusively civic one for several years. We feel it would be inappropriate to sever ties with someone who has given 15 years of support and has the potential to support the charity even more as it grows.

  • It would be great to see a members vote on this 

  • Your relationship with Theresa as you call her cant be non-political. She is a leading political figure and that position is why she is notable enough to be a patron. She is, to many of us a controversial political figure in a government whose policies have caused anguish to many people with disabilities.

  • Wow, I wouldn't have thought it would be possible to make things worse, but you actually have! This is an APPALLING response; despite the fact that 99% of your members, ALL other disability charities and even the former Minister for Work and Pensions himself think you're wrong, you carry on insisting you're right!

    You are missing the point. Your apology for the word 'minor' is welcome, but people are not angry because of a single word: the whole of the original letter is ill-informed, mis-judged and patronising; your new reply isn't much better.  You have provoked such a strong reaction from people you know are intelligent, sensible and generally supportive, because you have crossed a line and are WRONG.

    Your decision to stand by Theresa May rather than your members is really awful.

  • Shouldn't  any Charity working on behalf of its members be on the side of those members opinions and views and not tell them that they are wrong. After all you are working for them! Why not let your members vote on what you should or shouldn't  be supporting.

  • Sorry, if this was meant to be an apology, it has failed dismally. You are still implying that the docking of a point in the PIP assessment for using an aid is justified....even if not 'minor'

    This forum has been full of horrifying tales of people with severe disabilities being refused PIP altogether, or only getting a reduced award, and being so devastated by the whole process that they haven't the strength to appeal...even though 2/3 of those that do appeal ,succeed. Surely the anger and despair described clearly demonstrates the feeling"on the ground"

    How can NRAS be oblivious to this.

    Can you not appreciate how, rather than worrying about the "confrontational approach" of members you should be concerned that you got it so badly wrong and are so out of step with all other disabled charities.

    You need to be clear whose interests you are employed to serve. The team of 20 should be working for the members. The link with Theresa May can only bring into question your committment to your membership. There comes a point where you have to choose who you support, and for a registered charity there should be only one answer.

    Please stop being defensive, admit your mistake, and ensure that in the future you will ask for members opinions, in a structured way and reflect this in your ongoing policies

  • It would be quite straightforward to decide that no MPs of whatever political persuasion should be the patron of such organisations. I doubt also whether we need patrons at all.

  • I agree totally with Hatshepsut's views and, it seems, the majority if NRAS members. I am appalled, horrified and disgusted by the NRAS comments and shall also look at severing ties with an organisation that appears to be so out of step with its membership. How about a little more consultation with US rather than Theresa May.

  • I'm sorry that you take that attitude. You should listen to members otherwise you will lose them. MPs should not be patrons of bodies like NRAS, you cant take a disinterested position otherwise. This statement makes that very clear.

  • Hi everyone.  There is a lot of anger on the site today and I agree that it isn't a great situation having Teresa May as patron under the circumstances.  Obviously NRAS isn't going to ask Teresa May to step down but I would like to ask NRAS to think about the way they word their replies to angry, frustrated, upset members.  Unfortunately the written word is very difficult to get across in the way we would like i.e. no inflection in the voice, no body language, no facial expression etc so I would suggest that e.g. when referring to the 'current' patron you do not refer to her as 'Teresa' like she is your best friend.  This is inflammatory and not very professional.  As for the members, please, please let your anger settle before giving in to a kneejerk reaction and cancelling your memberships.  Just remember how much this site has helped you and I know you wouldn't want to deprive others of the help, comfort  and advice gained from speaking to all the friends we have made here.  God bless  you all. xx 

  • You have written a very good response and I have to agree I do need this site has it is a valuable link to help the concern people have is with the patron its like someone smiling nicely at you then sticking the knife in your back

  • NRAS, you need to ask Theresa May to step down. Whilst you say that she is a patron in a non political role, she is nevertheless, an MP, a minister for the Government, who voted for these cuts in sickness and disability cuts since 2010. Our members have to fight and fight hard for help in terms of these benefits, to live an independent life as best they can. How can you honestly justify her as a patron who agrees with making our lives so much harder? People have died due to these cuts, actually died. She is a part of that. Listen to your members, the board of trustees need to listen. I'm sure that this could get worse if you don't.

  • I have just watched a clip from daily politics in which Tony Branson Lewis could not deny there are a further 12 billion in planned cuts to the poor and disabled of this country. It would be so illuminating to be a fly on the wall when these cute are discussed in parliament. Also to hear the terminology used. 

  • Even more interesting to see what NRAS has to say....or will it be what they would term 'minor' changes? We need to be certain that the members views are paramount, and they will now fight for our rights

  • I cannot see where you are justifying why to keep Teresa May??? 

  • It's so wrong to bring politics of any kind into an organisation such as NRAS.   

    It's also very wrong to be justifying appointing Teresa May as patron when it is perfectly clear that this was a bad decision and has clearly upset its members.

    At this rate can see NRAS disbanding because it is simply not fulfilling the wishes of its members and will serve no purpose.    

    What a great shame that would be, please sort yourselves out NRAS !!!!

  • If I had known about all this, I would have never renewed my membership with NRAS.  As others have said you are there to stand up for your members, and their wishes.  Obviously this is not so, by looking at how many of your members are really upset by this.  Does this not matter to you????

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