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Welfare Reform (People with Disabilities)

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Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth 4:41 pm, 30th June 2015

I beg to move,

That this House

has considered welfare reform and people with disabilities.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Sir Roger. It is poignant that this debate falls on the very day that the independent living fund closes. A further £1.2 billion is being cut from support for people with disabilities. Such cuts were a hallmark of the Tory -led coalition, and many are concerned that not only will this increase but the cuts will get worse under this Government. My purpose in calling this debate is to highlight where we are now and the effect on disabled people, but I also want to draw attention to the punitive and dehumanising culture that has been part of the delivery of these welfare reforms, which set the tone for the leadership within the Department for Work and Pensions and the Government’s wider tone on social security.

In the final days before next week’s Budget, I urge the Minister to listen to disabled people, their carers and the millions of compassionate people across the UK who are saying that enough is enough. Going back to the 2010 emergency Budget, we know that £500 million was cut within weeks of the general election. The following year the analysis by Demos on behalf of Scope assessed the cumulative impact of the Government’s so-called reforms, and estimated that, by 2018, £23.8 billion of support would have been taken from 3.7 million people with disabilities. Demos identified a total of 13 cuts,

of which I shall mention the top few.

First, the indexation of social security payments was changed from the higher retail prices index to the lower consumer prices index, and there was also a 1% cap on the uprating of certain working-age benefits. That cut £9 billion from 3.7 million people. Secondly, people on incapacity benefit were reassessed, and we could have a whole separate debate on that—we had a number of debates in the previous Parliament on the work capability assessment. That cut £5.6 billion of support available to people with disabilities. Thirdly, there was the limiting of the time that disabled people in the work-related activity group are able to receive the employment and support allowance. Such people are now able to receive only two years of support, which is a further cut of £4.4 billion. Fourthly, and this is four of 13 cuts, disabled people in receipt of disability living allowance are being reassessed to determine whether they are eligible for the personal independence payment, which is another cut of £2.62 billion.

How have the Government managed that? How has there been buy-in from the public? How can such draconian cuts be acceptable? Part of the Government’s strategy has been the invidious spreading of a culture of blame and fear. In the 1980s we saw the unions being targeted; today the focus is on the poor and the vulnerable. The narrative associated with the so-called welfare reforms has been one of divide and rule, deliberately attempting to vilify people who receive social security as the new undeserving poor.

Angela Rayner Labour, Ashton-under-Lyne

Category: Bank

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