Disability Benefits and Social Care

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 1:27 pm on 20th June 2012.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 1:27 pm, 20th June 2012

I beg to move,

That this House
believes that cuts to support for disabled people and carers pose a potential risk to their dignity and independence and will have wider social and economic costs;
regrets that the Department for Work and Pensions has dropped the aim of achieving disability equality;
whilst recognising that the disability living allowance (DLA) needs to be reformed, expresses concern that taking the DLA from 500,000 disabled people and contributory employment and support allowance from 280,000 former workers will take vital financial support from families under pressure;
expresses further concern at the Work Programme’s failure to help disabled people and the mismanaged closure of Remploy factories;
notes the pressing need for continuing reform to the work capability assessment (WCA) to reduce the human cost of wrong decisions;
agrees with the eight Carers’
Week charities on the importance of recognising the huge contribution made by the UK’s 6.4 million carers and the need to support carers to prevent caring responsibilities pushing them into ill-health, poverty and isolation;
and calls on the Government to ensure reform promotes work, independence, quality of life and opportunities for disabled people and their families, to restore the commitment to disability equality in the Department for Work and Pensions’
business plan, to conduct a full impact assessment of the combined effects of benefit and social care cuts on disabled people and carers, to reform WCA descriptors as suggested by charities for mental health, fluctuating conditions and sensory impairment and to re-run the consultation on the future of Remploy factories.

Once upon a time, the Conservatives liked to tell us that we were all in this together. Those words ring rather hollow today. After a Budget that gave us the granny tax and cuts to tax credits while giving a tax cut to millionaires, I think we can assume that the Chancellor was simply taking us for a ride. Yesterday, Bob Holman—the man who introduced the Secretary of State to Easterhouse—said it all. He said that he now had so much confidence in the Secretary of State’s belief that we were all in it together that he thought the Secretary of State should resign. Today’s debate is about many of the people Mr Holman stood up for. They are the one in four of our fellow citizens who are not all in it together with the Chancellor and the Prime Minister. They are not part of the Chipping Norton set. They do not get to go to the kitchen suppers. They are Britain’s disabled citizens. They are parents of disabled children. They are former workers, now disabled, who have paid in and paid their stamp and now find a Government determined to renege on a deal that they believed in.

In today’s debate on what I hope will be a consensual motion, there will be interventions from those on the Treasury Bench asking which cuts the Opposition support, and that is a perfectly reasonable line of argument. Let me deal with it at the outset. We do not believe that the spending review set out by this Government was wise. We warned of the risks of cutting too far and too fast. We also warned of the risks of a double-dip recession, and now we have one. The cost is astronomical. That is why the Chancellor had to explain to the House, in his last Budget, that he had to borrow £150 billion more than the Office for Budget Responsibility said Labour would have borrowed, as set out in our last Budget. In the Department for Work and Pensions, the bill for jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit is now running out of control as a consequence of the Secretary of State’s failure to get people back into work, and £9 billion more than was originally forecast is now projected to be spent. Someone has to pay that bill, and the Government—the Cabinet and those on the Front Bench today—have decided that it should be paid by Britain’s disabled people.