Parkinson’s sufferers ‘able to work’, says the new Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb

Minister made comments the day before replacing Iain Duncan Smith - and later admitted they were 'inaccurate'

Peter Yeung
Friday 25 March 2016 18:32
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Stephen Crabb has been appointed as the new Work and Pensions Secretary
Stephen Crabb has been appointed as the new Work and Pensions Secretary

People with brain tumours, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease and a number of other conditions are “able to work”, new work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb has said.

Mr Crabb made the comments the day before he replaced Iain Duncan Smith, who resigned from his position because he found the planned cuts to disability benefits announced in the latest Budget "not defensible".

The MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire wrote on his Facebook page last Thursday: “A decision was taken by MPs to change the benefit awarded to a specific group of people who receive Employment Support Allowance.”

The 43-year-old - who later backtracked on the statement - added: “These people are in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and they do have a disability or illness but are able to work.”

In response to a freedom of information request, the Department for Work and Pensions confirmed disabilities and illness under the employment and support allowance work-related activity group include: strokes, brain haemorrhages, multiple sclerosis, brain tumours, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease, quadraplegia, polio and cerebral palsy.

Mr Crabbs’ words were not well-received online.

A few days ago my constituency office was vandalised in response to my recent vote to approve changes to the Employment...

Posted by Stephen Crabb on Thursday, 17 March 2016

Brian Davies, a member of the public, wrote on the Facebook post: “Could you explain how people who are admitted are unwell and really shouldn't be put under this kind of pressure, how does lowering money help them?”

Natalie Windsor added: “This would be great if it were true. The government, however, has not adequately responded to either help, correct error, or even apologise for the thousands of people who have wrongly been diagnosed as able to work.”

The controversy follows on from the Government’s u-turn on the Budget, which had previously suggested a saving of £4.4bn by 2020-21 through cuts to the disability budget.

Mr Crabbs has since updated his Facebook post, admitting “it previously contained a factual inaccuracy.”

He added: “Of course we absolutely continue to protect those who are ‘too ill to work’. There is no question about that. Those with the most severe health conditions and disabilities will quite rightly continue to get a higher rate of benefit and support.”

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