Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:59 pm on 17th November 2016.

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Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 2:59 pm, 17th November 2016

I congratulate Neil Gray on calling this timely debate. The fact that he has such a degree of support from across the House cannot be overestimated. The speeches we have heard show the House at its absolute best. We are concerned about the plight that so many of our constituents are facing and the impact that this additional cut in support will have on them.

Although my party wants the ESA WRAG cuts to be scrapped completely, we will support this motion calling for a postponement until the Government have been able to analyse the consultation from their Green Paper. The same points have been made a number of times: I think that only one speaker generally supported what the Government are doing, while everyone else set out the reasons why their proposals should not go ahead. The key element is that we have only just had the closing date of the Green Paper consultation. I hope that the Minister accepts these points; she will have support from across the House if she does.

Let me re-emphasise some of the points that I made in yesterday’s debate. Half the 13 million people living in poverty are disabled or live with a disabled person. The number of disabled people now living in poverty is 5 million—one in three disabled people. The situation is getting worse after a decade when the problem was in decline. According to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the figures that are officially published are an underestimate. Labour Members are concerned that the Government do not seem to recognise the link between disability and poverty. We know from extensive research that disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people. Eighty per cent. of that poverty results from the condition or disability that they experience. We have heard moving accounts from Members on both sides of the House, including Jeremy Lefroy, who gave a very eloquent description.

This is happening in the context of what disabled people are already going through; it is not just about social security cuts. The Welfare Reform Act 2012 cut £28 billion from 3.7 million disabled people, and that does not even include the cuts in social care and other health-related public services, such as the number of specialist nurses who might be available for people with a learning disability. I will not say that it is the tip of the iceberg, but it is not the whole story. Yesterday I mentioned research showing that families with a disabled adult or child have been made five times worse off than non-disabled people.

Among a number of measures in the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 that the Minister debated extensively with me last year, this is one of the worst. We have already heard about the cut of £1,500 a year affecting nearly half a million disabled people.