Labour has called on the new Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb MP, to reverse damaging cuts to Universal Credit and disability benefits.
Stephen Crabb has also been urged to “overhaul” sanctions and disability assessments, and abolish the hated bedroom tax.
Speaking ahead of Stephen Crabb’s first speech as Work and Pensions Secretary, Owen Smith MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said Mr Crabb has an opportunity “to turn the page on a disastrous period for the DWP”, which he says “has been defined by Tory callousness and incompetence”.
Owen Smith said he has “set out clear tests that Stephen Crabb must pass to show he has learnt the lessons from the past”.
Mr Smith added: “It’s ironic that the very day before his first major speech, cuts to Universal Credit are introduced that will in time take £1,600 a year form over two million low- and middle-paid working people.
“If he agrees with Labour that work should pay, then he must announce a U-turn on these cuts without delay.
“The cuts to Employment Support Allowance that will make half a million disabled people over £1,500 a year worse off are just as rotten as the Personal Independence Payment cuts and should also be reversed.
“The sanctions and disability assessment regimes require a complete overhaul.
“Stephen Crabb also needs to settle two long running injustices that have festered at the DWP. New proposals must urgently be brought forward to address the injustices for women born in the 1950s who are set to lose out as a result of the mishandled acceleration of the state pension age.
“Surely the time has come for the Government to finally listen to sense, hold their hands up for a damaging mistake and scrap the illegal and discriminatory Bedroom Tax.
“If the new Secretary of State fully commits to these actions, I will be happy to work with him to ensure that at long last we can start to unpick some of the damage caused by his predecessor.”
Stephen Crabb (pictured) will deliver his first speech as Work and Pensions Secretary on Tuesday, when he is expected to announce the Government will push ahead with Universal Credit.
It has also been reported that Mr Crabb may take action against private contractors responsible for “fitness for work” tests, after the Public Accounts Committee warned of “serious failings” with disability benefits assessments with “too many” failing to meet acceptable performance standards.
The cross-party committee also voiced concerns other whether the assessments offered value for money, finding “there has been no noticeable benefit for claimants or taxpayers”.
Disability campaigners fear Mr Crabb will continue where his predecessor left off and proceed with further cuts to Employment and Support Allowance, with some warning he may abolish the benefit in its current form and merge it into Universal Credit.
With so many rumours circulating in the media and on social networks, we’ll have to wait to hear Mr Crabb’s speech before it will be possible to ascertain for certain how he will approach his new role – and how this could affect vulnerable groups.