Budget 2016: Caroline Lucas accuses George Osborne of 'hypocrisy' over disability cuts

The Chancellor has said the money will be 'better targeted' at the people who need it the most

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Indy Politics

George Osborne has announced that the government will be making changes to the disability budget, but that spending overall will rise.

The Chancellor said that the budget would increase by more than £1 billion, despite the government announcing last week that cuts would be made to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

The cuts are set to reduce the benefit by £30 a week to £73 for some disabled people in the work-related activity group.

It was also announced that changes would be made to Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

Reforming PIP is expected to save £1.2 billion but affect more than 640,000 people.

While delivering the Budget in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Osborne said the Conservative government would spend more in real terms on disability payments than any Labour administration.

Opening his statement on welfare, he said: “We will continue to deliver sensible reforms to keep Britain living within its means."

“On welfare, last week … the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions set out changes that will ensure within the rising disability budget, support is better targeted at those who need it most."

But Mr Osborne's comments sparked outrage. Green MP Caroline Lucas accused him of "hypocrisy".

She tweeted: “Breathtaking hypocrisy from Chancellor – talks about support for disabled people having slashed disability benefits." 

One Twitter user said, in response to Mr Osborne, that "disability shouldn't be measured by a yardstick".

Mark Atkinson, the chief executive of disability charity Scope, said the Mr Osborne had confirmed benefit changes that would make "many disabled people's lives harder".

"Life costs more if you are disable... Half of disabled people say that they have struggled to pay the bills because of the extra costs of disability that they face."

Mr Atkinson urged the Chancellor to "think again and consider the impact these moves have on the lives of disabled people".

On 11 March, the Department of Work and Pensions said changes to PIP would ensure the system was fairer.

Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, said: "The introduction of Personal Independence Payment to replace the outdated Disability Living Allowance for working age claimants has been a hugely positive reform."

"But it is clear that the assessment criteria for aids and appliances are not working as planned," he said.

"Many people are eligible for a weekly award despite having minimal to no extra costs and judicial decisions have expanded the criteria for aids and appliances to include items we would expect people to have in their homes already."