Iain Duncan Smith has been asked "how he sleeps at night" after imposing cuts to disability support.
The Work and Pensions Secretary was asked by his opposition counterpart, the Labour Party's Owen Smith, how he could justify taking £1.2 billion out of the welfare budget for disabled people.
The shadow secretary said in a Commons debate on welfare reform: "I asked disabled people what question they would like to put to the secretary of state, and one answer stood out, and it was quite simply, 'how does he sleep at night?'"
Mr Duncan Smith replied: "Under this government spending on sickness and disability benefits has risen every year.
"We spend over £50 billion, which is more than any other OECD country of our equivalent size, such as Germany. I am proud of that."
He also said the changes to the Government's Personal Independence Payment scheme (PIP) improved funds for "those who most need it."
But his counterpart accused him of raiding welfare funding to allow a tax break for middle-income earners.
Mr Smith said : "This past weekend, we saw the values and priorities of the current government laid bare in their decision to implement a so-called welfare reform that will see £1.2 billion cut from the incomes of disabled people to pay for, we are told, a tax cut for top-rate taxpayers."
The shadow secretary was referring to accusations George Osborne is making cuts to PIP for disabled people while reportedly planning a tax cut for middle-income earners in the forthcoming Budget.
The Chancellor plans to “accelerate progress” towards the Conservative manifesto pledge of raising the threshold to £50,000 at which people start paying 40p tax - a move labelled "truly obscene" by Mr Smith in light of disability benefits cuts.
Cuts to PIP are expected to affect 640,000 people over the next four years, the Government has said.
Current rules rate people with disabilities on a sliding scale of "points", with eight needed to get the standard rate of PIP, and 12 needed to get the enhanced PIP.
Whereas people previously earned two points if they needed a handrail or walking stick to get dressed or use the toilet, this will now only amount to one point.
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
PIP was forecast to amount to £15.4 bilion in 2015-16, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.
The state pension, meanwhile, costs taxpayers £92.1 billion annually.