Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith MP, is to press ahead with plans to slash benefits for hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people, it has been reported today.
Unemployed people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will see payments cut by £30 a week, to bring the benefit more inline with Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
The move will affect up to 500,000 sick and disabled people, including many with incurable and progressive conditions like Parkinson’s and Motor Neuron Disease, who are unfit for work but whom the DWP believes may be capable of working at some point in the future.
Benefit payments for those affected by the changes will be slashed from £102.15 to just £73.10 a week, equal to that of JSA.
Opponents argue the changes, which come into force from April 2017, will worsen people’s health and push them further away from the world of work.
Labour’s shadow disabilities minister, Debbie Abrahams, described the plans to reduce support for people with serious health conditions as “unjust” and urged the Tory Government to scrap the changes.
Debbie Abrahams told the Daily Mirror: “It is deeply worrying that sufferers of progressive conditions such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis or Motor Neurone Disease will be hit by these measures.
She warned that cutting support for these people “risks making peoples’ conditions worse, because they may no longer have the means to live healthier lives”.
Ms Abrahams added: “It is unjust that people with serious health conditions, who have been assessed by the Government’s own Work Capability Assessment process as ‘not fit for work’, should have support cut in this manner.
“These measures also risk making it harder for some disabled people to move back to work, as they will have lost the financial support that helps them secure employment opportunities.
However, Iain Duncan Smith remains cruelly adamant about cutting sickness and disability benefits, even though Ms Abrahams says “disabled people are twice as likely to be living in persistent poverty”.
She added that 300,000 disabled people were pushed into poverty last year, and called on the Government to carry out an impact assessment that “considers the combined cuts to disability benefits”.
A DWP spokesperson insisted the Government is “committed to supporting disabled people and continue to spend around £50bn a year on disabled people and their services”.
They added that the changes would only affect new claims and that those in the Support Group of ESA would continue to receive the same level of benefits.