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Don't Push Disabled People into Poverty

Many constituents have contacted me recently regarding the Government's proposed cuts to financial support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

I sympathise profoundly with anyone who is affected by cancer, and I appreciate how devastating this can be. I also recognise that those recovering from or being treated for cancer need additional support at this very difficult time and share the concerns about the Government's proposed changes to WRAG, which would see the level of support for new claimants in WRAG cut by around £30 a week from April 2017. I oppose this unfair and unjust measure, as it will hurt vulnerable people who through no fault of their own are suffering from serious illnesses and are in and out of work intermittently. It also risks creating a perverse incentive for people with health problems to be placed in the more expensive Support Group of ESA, thereby making is less likely they will receive help and support to return to work and potentially increase social security costs.

I know that a number of charities and disability groups have expressed serious concern about this proposal, including Macmillan Cancer Support who state that thousands of people will see a significant drop in support at some point during their cancer journey. Macmillan have also published research which stated that 10% of those surveyed living with cancer said they would be unable, or would struggle, to pay their rent or mortgage if they lost £30 a week. I share Macmillan's concerns and fear that a reduction in the level of support cancer patients receive could be detrimental to their wellbeing.

Of course the costs of social security need to be fair on the working people who pay for it so it can be there for people who need it because they cannot work or earn enough to live. However, I believe the Government does not understand the reality of these changes, the impact it will have on sick and disabled people or the perverse incentives it will create.

I voted against the Welfare Reform and Work Bill in its entirety at Report Stage and Third Reading, as well as supporting my Shadow Frontbench colleague's amendments to remove this proposal from the Bill. The Government was defeated in the House of Lords.


Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

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