Disability Benefits and Social Care

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 3:23 pm on 20th June 2012.

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Photo of Ian Lavery Ian Lavery Labour, Wansbeck 3:23 pm, 20th June 2012

The Opposition motion highlights the many problems with disability benefits and social care. There is undoubtedly an attack on benefits for disabled people. Disabled people face many acute problems, many of which have been mentioned this afternoon. The changes to disability living allowance will impact on nearly 500,000 people. The problems associated with employment and support allowance will impact on nearly 280,000 people. We have not seen how universal credit or the personal independence payment will work, but I fear that there will be chaos in the benefits system when they are introduced.

I concur with what Members on both sides of the House have said about Atos. It is wholly inefficient and cannot operate the work capability assessment. Some might say that it is wholly incapable. The problem is not the work capability assessment, but the way in which it is carried out, including the way in which people have to tick boxes and the fact that people are being assessed by people who are probably not qualified to carry out such assessments. If I called for nothing else in this debate, I would call on the Government to look again at the way in which Atos is delivering the system on their behalf.

Like many other speakers, I want to focus on Remploy, which is very dear to my heart. The discussions and consultations between the trade unions, individuals, employers and the Government have been nothing but a shambles. I will ask a few questions of the Government about what will happen to Remploy. Each factory is being tret completely differently. They are all being given different advice on what is happening and about whether they are or are not in the consultation period.

I was outraged by the suggestion of Paul Maynard that Remploy was a form of disabled apartheid. That is outrageous. Remploy was established just after the second world war to look after disabled people, and we should be looking after disabled people now. Nothing has changed. For someone to suggest that it is disabled apartheid is outrageous.

The Remploy ethos was developed by George Tomlinson, who was an MP for a Bolton seat. He wanted there to be secure and open employment for disabled people. Remploy factories have given their employees an income, independence, self-respect and self-esteem. It is often said that society can be judged by how it looks after its most vulnerable people.