The Government should cancel its latest reductions in tax for wealthier people to protect disability benefits from cuts, Jeremy Corbyn has said.
The Government today signaled a U-turn on cuts to the Personal Independence Payment disability benefit – which would have seen 370,000 disabled people lose an average of £3,500 a year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
The Conservative party was plunged into a row over the benefits after Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith resigned on Friday night – warning that his party was balancing the books on the backs of Britain’s most vulnerable people.
Former Tory leader Michael Howard hinted this morning that cuts could be made elsewhere in the social security budget
“I would ask people to remember the promises we made in our manifesto which have to be kept,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“There was a promise in our manifesto to bring welfare spending under control and it’s very important for the future viability of our economy that welfare spending is brought under control.”
Labour leader Mr Corbyn however said that corporation tax and capital gains tax cuts also included in the same Budget should be shelved in order to protect the disabled.
The PIP cuts confirmed by the Chancellor in his Budget would have raised £4.4 billion by 2020, by stripping people who use specially adapted appliances of payments.
“Roughly speaking the tax cuts they proposed in corporation tax and capital gains tax would pay for that so I suggest they just don’t go ahead with those tax cuts at the top end of the scale,” Mr Corbyn told the BBC.
“Instead, ensure that as a society we fully support people with disabilities to live independently. That, surely, is at the heart of the whole issue and the public outrage on this is palpable.”
“I think we should start on a principle that an austerity budget which has been put forward should not be paid for by those with disabilities but should be paid for by general taxation, but particularly by corporate taxation.”
The Labour leader said on Friday he would force a vote on the cuts in the House of Commons, before the Government signalled their cancellation.
Though the Government says the cuts will help reduce the deficit, it has spent a similar amount on the tax cuts, which mainly go to wealthier people wealthier people.
The PIP cuts were the most substantial spending cut in the Budget, which was unveiled on Wednesday.
7 ways the Tories have ‘helped’ disabled people
7 ways the Tories have ‘helped’ disabled people
1/7 Closing Remploy factories
The Work and Pensions Secretary called time on Britain’s system of Remploy factories, which provided subsidised and sheltered employment to disabled people. People employed at the factories protested against their closure and said they provided gainful work. “Is it a kindness to stick people in some factory where they are not doing any work at all? Just making cups of coffee?” Mr Duncan Smith said at the time, defending the decision. “I promise you this is better.” The Remploy organisation was privatised and sold to American workfare provider Maximus, with the majority of the organisation’s factories closed. The future of the remaining sites is unclear
2/7 Scrapping the Independent Living Fund
The £320m Independent Living Fund was established in 1988 to give financial support to people with disabilities. It was scrapped on July 1 2015, with 18,000 often severely disabled people losing out by an average of £300 a week. The money was generally used to help pay for carers so people could live in communities rather than institutions. Councils will get a boost in funding to compensate but it will not cover the whole cost of the fund. This new cash also doesn’t have to be spent on the disabled
3/7 Cut payments for the disabled Access To Work scheme
Iain Duncan Smith is bringing forward a policy that will reduce payments to some disabled people from a scheme designed to help them into work. The £108m scheme, which helps 35,540 people, will be capped on a per-used basis, potentially hitting those with the more serious disabilities who currently receive the most help. The single biggest users of the fund are people who have difficulty seeing and hearing. The cut will come in from October 2015. The charity Disability UK says the scheme actually makes the Government money because the people who gain access to work tend pay tax that more than covers its cost. The DWP does not describe the reduction as a “cut” and says it will be able to spread the money more thinly and cover more people
4/7 Cut Employment and Support Allowance
The latest Budget included a £30 a week cut in disability benefits for some new claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The Government says it is equalising the rate of disability benefits with Jobseekers Allowance because giving disabled people more help is a “perverse incentive”. The people affected by this cut are those assessed as having a limited capability for work but as being capable of some “work-related activity”. A group of prominent Catholics wrote to Mr Duncan Smith to say there was “no justification” for this cut. Mental health charity Mind, said the cut was “insulting and misguided”
5/7 Risk homelessness with a sharp increase disability benefit sanctions
Official figures in the first quarter of 2014 found a huge increase in sanctions against people reliant on ESA sickness benefit. The 15,955 sanctions were handed out in that period compared to 3,574 in the same period the year before, 2013 – a 4.5 times increase. The homelessness charity Crisis warned at the time that the sharp rise in temporary benefit cuts was “cruel and can leave people utterly destitute – without money even for food and at severe risk of homelessness”. “It is difficult to see how they are meant to help people prepare for work,” Matt Downie, director of policy at the charity added
6/7 Sending sick people to work because of broken fitness to work tests
In 2012 a government advisor appointed to review the Government’s Work Capability Assessment said the tests causing suffering by sending sick people back to work inappropriately. “There are certainly areas where it's still not working and I am sorry there are people going through a system which I think still needs improvement,” Professor Malcolm Harrington concluded. The tests are said to have improved since then, but as recently as this summer they are still coming in for criticism. In June the British Psychological Society said there was “now significant body of evidence that the WCA is failing to assess people’s fitness for work accurately and appropriately”. It called for a full overhaul of the way the tests are carried out. The WCA appeals system has also been fraught with controversy with a very high rate of overturns and delays lasting months and blamed for hardship
7/7 The bedroom tax
The Government’s benefit cut for people who it says are “under-occupying” their homes disproportionately affects disabled people. Statistics released last year show that around two-thirds of those affected by the under-occupancy penalty, widely known as the ‘bedroom tax’, are disabled. There have been a number of high profile cases of disabled people being moved out of specially adapted homes by the policy. In one case publicised by the Sunday People last week, a 48 year old man with cerebral palsy was forced to bathe in a paddling pool after the tax moved him out of his home with a walk-in shower. The Government says it has provided councils with a discretionary fund to help reduce the policy’s impact on disabled people, but cases continue to arise
DWP ministers also said the PIP benefit – which was introduced under the Coalition government, was not working properly.
The PIP cuts follow sharp cuts to disabled people claiming the Employment and Support Allowance, another disability benefit.
That cut, passed earlier this month, stripped people in the so-called work related activity group section of the payment of around £30 a week.
The Conservatives pledged to make a further £20 billion of welfare cuts in their general election manifesto, in order to meet a self-imposed spending target.