Tory plans to slash the number of people claiming sickness and disability benefits, would cut the number of claimants by up to 43% and reduce crucial support for severely disabled people.
New figures compiled by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre reveal the “shocking extent to which the Tories are prepared to cut support for the disabled”, says Clare Adamson MSP.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, said last week that he wanted to reduce the number of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by around one million – with the focus being on mentally ill claimants.
However, figures show that less than quarter of a million people with mental illness in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA are regarded as being work ready by the DWP. More than half (54%) are deemed to be the most severely disabled and unable to work or participate in work-related activities.
Thousands of sick and disabled people – including mentally ill claimants – are having their benefit payments cut from £102.15 a week to just £73.10. This means that payments for vulnerable people, who are not yet ready for work, will be reduced to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Clare Adamson said: “These new figures show the shocking extent to which the Tories are prepared to cut support for the disabled.
“While Iain Duncan Smith chose to set out his vague plans behind closed doors without setting out any details, it has been reported that he plans to cut support for up to 1 million disabled people – a staggering 43% of those who receive ESA.
“And despite Mr Duncan Smith’s crass and stigmatising comments about people with ‘common’ mental health conditions getting back to work – these figures show that people with mental health conditions that are deemed able to work only make up around 10% of claimants.
“It is clear that to make these huge cuts, support to those the DWP deem the most severely disabled will be cut.
“The DWP should scrap their callous plans, undertake a full independent review of the current assessment process and put in place a fairer system that supports people into work rather than penalises them.
“We need a social security system that treats people with dignity and respect – if the UK Government won’t change then they should devolve further welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament so we can get on with the job.”
Iain Duncan Smith is facing an investigation by the United Nations, over whether his welfare cuts are a ‘gross’ human rights violation.
The UN’s special rapoteur on disabled rights, Catalina Aguilar, will visit the UK to determine whether reliable evidence exists of ‘grave and systematic violations’ of human rights.
Bill Scott, director of policy at Inclusion Scotland, a consortium of disability organisations, told Herald Scotland: “The UN have notified us they will be visiting Britain to investigate … and want to meet with us when they come, sometime in the next few months.”
Mr Scott added: “It is the cumulative impact that is so serious, because the government seems to have assumed that different disabled people would be affected by different cuts – but that is not the case. There are a lot of individuals who are affected by three, four, five – sometimes six or seven different benefit cuts.
“Because disabled people are less likely to be in work, they are more likely to also be reliant on benefits which aren’t specifically for disabled people, but which are claimed by people on low income – like housing benefit and council tax benefit.
“So if there are cuts to those, it affects disabled people disproportionately, because they are more likely to be on low income.”
SNP MSP Christina McKelvie, a member of Holyrood’s welfare reform committee, said:
“Just this week it was revealed that 2,380 people had died after a work capability assessment found them fit for work and this comes as the DWP is set to further cut support for up to 1 million disabled people – a staggering 43% of those who receive ESA.”
“We have consistently raised grave concerns about the impact and extent to which the UK Government is prepared to cut support for disabled people.
“The fact that the United Nations is now set to launch an inquiry into the issue simply underlines the gravity of the situation facing many of the most vulnerable people in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“The DWP has questions to answer and the Scottish Parliament and its committees should welcome and support any investigation by UN representatives.”
A DWP spokesperson said all UN investigations are confidential and refused to comment.