Government Plans £4.4bn Cuts in Support for Disabled People – a fundamental attack on dignity

Last week the Government announced that they would be changing the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) system by cutting a further £4.4 billion of support for disabled people by 2020. These proposals were reiterated in the Budget on Wednesday.

I believe that removing support for people who have qualified for PIP and need help to use the toilet or dress is a fundamental attack on dignity.

There is no political, economic or moral justification for the Chancellor’s decision to cut support for disabled people while increasing tax benefits for the wealthiest. You can sign Labour’s petition, opposing these cuts here.

Just a week after forcing through cuts to support that will take over £1,500 a year from disabled people on ESA WRAG, the Tories snuck out their response to the PIP consultation last Friday, proposing to take away £4.4 billion by 2020, by removing support from people who are not able to manage toilet needs or dress unaided.

In coming to this decision, the Tories are yet again ignoring the views of disabled people, carers and experts in the field, trying to press ahead with changes, just two years since the introduction of the PIP system. At the same time, their own proposals admit that the vast majority of respondents did not think the case for change had been made.

Of 281 written responses received to the consultation, just 11 indicated that they thought a change was required – all these were individuals. In addition, the justification for this consultation was a review of 105 PIP cases, just 0.02% of current PIP claimants. In early January I asked Ministers in Written Parliamentary Questions to explain their methodology and to extend the consultation period as it was held over Christmas and New Year.

On Monday at Work and Pensions Questions I raised this with Ministers saying:

“The Government have sunk to a new low with this cut to the personal independence payment. As my hon. Friends have said, by 2020 some 640,000 disabled people will have their personal independence payment cut, a third by £2,865 a year and two thirds by £1,400 a year, stripping disabled people of their independence and their dignity. That is on top of the £24 billion cut to 4 million people since 2012. What are the Government’s estimates of how many of those disabled people will be in work, and how many will be unable to work as a consequence of those cuts?”

The Minister had no answer to this question or my follow up, asking why social security spending on disabled people as a percentage of GDP is lower now than it was in 1960.  You can read the full exchange here

Labour rejected entirely the principles underlying the consultation, all of the proposed ‘options’ impact harmfully on disabled people and removing support for people who need help to use the toilet or dress in an attack on dignity. You can read my response to the consultation here.

There are indications that the Government may try to enact cuts to Personal Independence Payments for 640,000 disabled people through secondary legislation. This Government has a poor track record in trying to push through legislation without scrutiny. It will be utterly unacceptable for them to try and take billions of pounds away from disabled people without even holding a vote in Parliament.

Labour has previously forced votes on measures such as the cuts to Tax Credits and Universal Credit, and we will refuse to allow this attack on disabled people to pass without proper exposure and a vote which will allow members from all parties the chance to express their opposition to the cuts.

Tory cuts have already taken over £24 billion in support from disabled people, these further cuts would represent another huge blow making life even more difficult for many people who already facing huge barriers. The Government should now do the fair, sensible thing. Scrap these cuts completely and spare hundreds of thousands of disabled people who’ve already suffered enough under the Tories.

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