The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 3rd March 2017

Disabled to be sacrificed

by Daphne Liddle

PEOPLE with disabilities, who have already suffered the brunt of cuts to benefits and services since 2010, are to see another round of £3.7 billion in cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to help the Tories balance their budget deficit.

Even before the latest cuts have been given in detail, they are being implemented. Two tribunal judgements said the Government should award more cash to 165,000 people in certain situations. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has laid down emergency laws to stop those tribunals taking effect because the new payments would cost £3.7 billion by 2022. But recent figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies put the savings to be made by the cuts at £4.4 billion.

Cabinet Minister Patrick McLoughlin has dismissed calls to drop the cuts, which are expected to be detailed in next week’s Budget statement, claiming: “We do very proudly in this country at helping disabled people.” He stressed the need to balance Britain’s budget, which has an annual deficit of £60 billion.

The cuts will hit PIPs, which are the payments awarded to people with disabilities. They were introduced when Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was withdrawn a couple of years ago. The DLA was a statutory right for people whose needs met the criteria and was paid by the DWP to cover the extra costs that are incurred by disabled people in order to live an independent life. It was not means tested and could be claimed by disabled people who had a job.

Now the Government wants to reduce the criteria for PIP and those with mental health problems will be their main target.

A commentator on the Vox Political website said: “I wonder if anyone else has twigged that the latest groups to be targeted for PIP cuts are also those targeted in changes to the way regulations 29 and 35 are implemented in ESA [Employment Support Allowance]; and targeted further in the coming, oh I just can’t wait for it, work and health programme reforms.

“ESA regulations 29 and 35 concern whether decisions to find someone fit for work or able to carry out work-related activity would cause a substantial risk of harm to an ESA claimant — for example, putting them at risk of committing suicide.”

According to the DWP, those most likely to have their PIP payments cut will be those with: mood disorders, psychotic disorders, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, phobia, social panic disorder, learning disability, generalised anxiety, agoraphobia, alcohol misuse, anxiety and oppressive disorders, autism, bipolar affective disorder, cognitive disorder and others. These would definitely be the people most like to harm themselves or others, especially if claiming their ESA is made more difficult at the same time as their PIP payments are cut.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised that he will force a vote in the House of Commons on these cuts. The Labour leader said that the Government had “declared war on the disabled” with the changes, which would see 370,000 disabled people lose an average of £3,500 per year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

“We are going to force a vote on this,” Corbyn told the BBC News. “We’re launching a petition this morning against this, because what the Chancellor is doing is demanding that those with disabilities who want to lead the most independent life they can [should] pay for his corporation tax cuts.”

“Surely as a society we’re good enough, big enough and open enough to say we want everybody to fulfil their dreams in their lives. That’s what this is about, independence for those with disabilities. Any of us could become disabled at any time.”

Ministers have previously introduced benefit cuts through as statutory instruments, which do not have to be debated, and denoted them as financial instruments in order to prevent the House of Lords from blocking them.

Any vote forced by Labour would likely be non-binding on ministers — but a major defeat could push them into a retreat if it felt it was losing support.

The Government has only a slim majority, so even a fairly small rebellion by Tory backbenchers could derail the plans.

The campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts has organised a protest against these cuts on Tuesday 7th March 1—3 pm in Old Palace Yard, opposite the House of Commons.