This Conservative government is failing its biggest moral test – how it treats its most vulnerable people

The Tory manifesto claimed the government would 'halve the disability gap'. How can it expect to achieve that now?

David Lammy
Friday 18 March 2016 13:34
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David Lammy is challenging the government over planned cuts to disability benefits.
David Lammy is challenging the government over planned cuts to disability benefits.

When it comes to the Budget, the devil is always in the detail. Buried in the small print is the one change that will be the government’s biggest single revenue raiser.The Chancellor’s bid to make his sums add up and close the budget deficit will see Personal Independence Payments (PIP) to the disabled slashed by over £4 billion over the next five years.

Cuts to PIP are piled on to the back of cuts to Employment Support Allowance that went through the House of Commons last month, which have already reduced social security support for people with disabilities and serious health conditions by £1,500 annually.

Just last week the Minister of State for Disabled People proudly boasted that “supporting disabled people to live full lives and enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else is an absolute priority for us”. In what world does cutting support for disabled people help them to live full lives?

These cuts also contradict the government’s agenda on welfare reform. Since 2010 we have heard time and again that the purpose of the government’s reforms is to ‘make work pay’. The Conservative Election Manifesto last year promised that “we will aim to halve the disability gap” and remove the barriers that prevent disabled people “who can and want to be in work” from finding employment.

However PIP was the separate system of payments introduced by the last government specifically to help with the extra costs arising from ill health or poverty. According to the Extra Costs Commission disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty, and in four fifths of cases this is due to the extra costs they face because of their disability.

Justin Tomlinson, the Minister for Disabled People explained PIP was introduced “because it offers so much more than Disability Living Allowance” and “targets support to those who need it most”. The way the government claimed to do this was through the allocation of points – a claimant must be awarded 8 points to receive the standard rate and 12 points to be awarded an enhanced rate.

Yet the government is now planning to halve the number of points awarded to 640,000 people who were until yesterday determined to be the most in need of help because they “need to use an aid or appliance” to get dressed or “need an aid or appliance to be able to manage toilet needs or incontinence”.

This means that the government has decided that some of the most vulnerable members of our society will have to manage on their already reduced rate of £73 Employment and Support Allowance each week. I wonder how they will manage, and if the result of these changes will be the proliferation of not just food banks, or even clothes banks, but banks handing out essential incontinence equipment and “aids for the disabled”.

David Lammy is Labour MP for Tottenham

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