Greens back pressure on government over flawed welfare reforms

By staff writers
20 Jan 2012

The Green Party has backed campaigners who say changes to Disability Living Allowance will put more people into poverty and distress, following the government's narrow win in the House of Lords vote earlier this week.

Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, some Liberal Democrats, Conservatives including wheelchair-user Ollie Flitcroft, crossbench peers, church leaders, community groups, charities, medical professionals and most of all, sick and disabled people themselves, are continuing to protest strongly over the coalition's controversial Welfare Reform Bill, following the publication of the critical Spartacus Report.

Disabilities minister Maria Miller has that as much as £600 million is being 'overpaid' every year, but this has been refuted in detail by critics using the DWP's own data.

The minister wishes to replace the DLA with a Personal Independence Plan that forces regular assessment on vulnerable claimants and will end up excluding around half a million disabled people.

Charities and campaigners want the plans to be postponed until the government can provide suitably researched, verified and piloted ways forward, involving disabled people directly in the process.

Many disabled people have expressed concerns that the government is currently unable to provide a PIP assessment system which will be fair, and point to the disastrous failures of the Work Capability Assessment for Employment Support Allowance. There are also other questions about PIP.

Scrutiny of the reform suggests the government is arbitrarily setting savings targets, in this case a 20 per cent reduction in DLA, to drive down the welfare bill and cut the budget deficit.

A sweeping cut of one-fifth will inevitably disadvantage significant groups of vulnerable people who rely on this income support for the additional costs and burden of their conditions and circumstances.

"The current system where a private company has been contracted to simply reduce benefits rather that to provide object assessments looks set to be replaced by an even worse system, if that were even possible," commented Stuart Jeffery, Green Party Policy Co-ordinator.

He copntinued: "Benefit fraud is a tiny problem when compared to the problems of tax avoidance. Sadly the bullies in government stick up for their friends in the city rather than those people who really need support."

The fact that some people have remained on DLA after their condition improves is certainly cause for concern and needs to be looked into, say the Greens. But the positives of the Welfare Reform Bill (including simplified universal credit) are outweighed by the negative consequences of other changes for many of those living with disabilities.

"The new reforms once again show that the government is more concerned with cutting costs than helping the least vulnerable in society," declared Mr Jeffery.

[Ekk/3]

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