The Welfare Reform and Work Bill returned to the Commons for further consideration of Lords amendments yesterday. As the Shadow Minister for Disabled People, I led Labour’s call on the Government to rethink its stance on the cuts to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and carry out proper impact assessments. However, this government has voted against the House of Lords Welfare Bill amendments and are continuing their attacks on disabled people.
The Government wants to cut ESA WRAG making disabled people £30 worse off per week meaning they receive exactly the same as someone on Jobseekers’ Allowance. Though they promised a White Paper on the effect of the cuts, the Government has yet to publish this even though MPs voted on the Lord’s amendments yesterday.
Alongside the Equality and Human Rights Commission, I am calling for proper impact assessments to be carried out. There has been no assessment by the Government of the impacts this cut will have on the number of disabled people pushed into poverty, or the effects on their health condition or disability.
Even the Equality and Human Rights Commission has written to the Government offering to help them carry out the proper and effective impact assessments that are necessary before making such swinging cuts to the benefits available to sick and disabled people.
Groups including Mencap, MacMillan, Parkinson’s UK, RNIB, the MS Society and Mind have written to Iain Duncan Smith saying the planned £30-a-week cut to ESA will: “push sick and disabled people further away from work and closer to poverty.”
They also said: “We call on the Government to listen to the damaging effect this will have on the lives of sick and disabled people and immediately halt this cut.”