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NAT comments on how the Comprehensive Spending Review will affect people living with HIV

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:

‘The Chancellor’s decision to put a one year time limit on the length of time people can claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA)* is likely to be detrimental to those living with a disability – including HIV. 

‘What the Government has failed to take into account is – whilst they can put a one year time limit on ESA – there is not a one year time limit on a person’s disability, or on the stigma and discrimination unfortunately associated with it.  And this is the reality of the situation people living with HIV face.’

Flaws in the system

‘The test** in place for assessing a person’s eligibility for ESA is already incredibly stringent and only those living with physical or mental impairments deemed severe enough can pass.  So for the Government to announce that these people will now only be able to receive this benefit for a year is essentially penalising them with a time limit that is in no way relevant or reflective of their individual situation.’

Disability and poverty live hand in hand

‘People living with HIV are already in a position of vulnerability due to the attitudes of society and the nature of their long term condition, which can involve fluctuating symptoms.  NAT’s new report ‘Poverty and HIV’ has revealed at least one in six*** people living with HIV in the UK have experienced severe poverty, and this has dramatically increased over recent years. Following this Spending Review, the poverty crisis for people living with HIV is set to get worse.  A one year time limit on ESA will simply exacerbate the cyclical nature of HIV and poverty.’

- Ends -

Notes to the editor:

The Comprehensive Spending Review can be found here: http://cdn.hm-treasury.gov.uk/sr2010_completereport.pdf

* In October 2008, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced to replace Incapacity Benefit and Incapacity-based Income Support as the primary income support benefit for people who are unable to work due to disability or illness.
**The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is the test undertaken to determine whether a person is eligible for ESA.  The WCA aims to identify claimants who have ‘limited capacity for work’ or ‘limited capacity for work-related activity’, so that they may receive the right support to help them live well and (where appropriate) return to work.  Those who are found ‘fit for work’ are not entitled to receive ESA. 
*** At least one in six people diagnosed with HIV in the UK experienced severe poverty between 2006 and 2009.  The full report Poverty and HIV by NAT and Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) can be downloaded here: http://www.nat.org.uk/Media%20library/F