Charities warn Duncan Smith: 450,000 disabled people will lose out under Universal Credit

Work and Pensions Secretary promised that there would be "no losers" under the new programme.

"There will be no losers," Iain Duncan Smith said of his Universal Credit programme in November 2010. But a commission led by Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson (interviewed earlier this year by the NS) has found that there will, in fact, be 450,000 - all of them disabled.

Its report, based on surveys of 3,500 disabled people and their families, warns that 100,000 disabled children stand to lose up to £28 a week; 230,000 severely disabled people who do not have another adult to assist them are at risk of losing £28-£58 a week; and up to 116,000 disabled people who work could lose £40 a week. If true, and the government has denounced the study as "irresponsible scaremongering", Duncan Smith's vow to "make work pay" will ring hollow for thousands of people.

The report, Holes in the Safety Net: the impact of universal credit on disabled people and their families, is backed by The Children's Society, Citizens Advice and Disability Rights UK. Here's what Grey-Thompson, who shares the title of Britain's most successful Paralympian with cyclist Sarah Storey, had to say about it.

The findings of this report do not make easy reading. The clear message is that many households with disabled people are already struggling to keep their heads above water. Reducing support for families with disabled children, disabled people who are living alone, families with young carers and disabled people in work risk driving many over the edge in future.

Labour has responded by reaffirming its call for the government to delay the introduction of Universal Credit by a year and one wouldn't be surprised if Ed Miliband chooses to quiz David Cameron on this subject at today's PMQs. Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: "This report is another nail in the coffin for David Cameron's claims we are all in this together. The PM tried to hide it in the Commons, but this report lays bare the truth that he is snatching up to £1,400 from 100,000 disabled children yet offering a huge tax cut to millionaires. Disabled people and their families are being forced to pick up the tab for the government's shambolic mismanagement of our economy."

For the record, the Department for Work and Pensions described the report as "highly selective" and accused the commission of "highly selective". A spokeswoman said: "The truth is we inherited a system of disability support which is a tangled mess of elements, premiums and add-ons which is highly prone to error and baffling for disabled people themselves.

"Our reforms will create a simpler and fairer system with aligned levels of support for adults and children. More importantly, there will be no cash losers in the rollout of Universal Credit.

"In fact, hundreds of thousands of disabled adults and children will actually receive more support than now, including paying a higher rate of support for all children who are registered blind."

Laudable words, but the government will need to do much more to convince charities that the disabled, rightly viewed as the most worthy recipients of welfare by the public, will not lose out.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s Brexit speech is Angela Merkel’s victory – here’s why

The Germans coined the word “merkeln to describe their Chancellor’s approach to negotiations. 

It is a measure of Britain’s weak position that Theresa May accepts Angela Merkel’s ultimatum even before the Brexit negotiations have formally started

The British Prime Minister blinked first when she presented her plan for Brexit Tuesday morning. After months of repeating the tautological mantra that “Brexit means Brexit”, she finally specified her position when she essentially proposed that Britain should leave the internal market for goods, services and people, which had been so championed by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. 

By accepting that the “UK will be outside” and that there can be “no half-way house”, Theresa May has essentially caved in before the negotiations have begun.

At her meeting with May in July last year, the German Chancellor stated her ultimatum that there could be no “Rosinenpickerei” – the German equivalent of cherry picking. Merkel stated that Britain was not free to choose. That is still her position.

Back then, May was still battling for access to the internal market. It is a measure of how much her position has weakened that the Prime Minister has been forced to accept that Britain will have to leave the single market.

For those who have followed Merkel in her eleven years as German Kanzlerin there is sense of déjà vu about all this.  In negotiations over the Greek debt in 2011 and in 2015, as well as in her negotiations with German banks, in the wake of the global clash in 2008, Merkel played a waiting game; she let others reveal their hands first. The Germans even coined the word "merkeln", to describe the Chancellor’s favoured approach to negotiations.

Unlike other politicians, Frau Merkel is known for her careful analysis, behind-the-scene diplomacy and her determination to pursue German interests. All these are evident in the Brexit negotiations even before they have started.

Much has been made of US President-Elect Donald Trump’s offer to do a trade deal with Britain “very quickly” (as well as bad-mouthing Merkel). In the greater scheme of things, such a deal – should it come – will amount to very little. The UK’s exports to the EU were valued at £223.3bn in 2015 – roughly five times as much as our exports to the United States. 

But more importantly, Britain’s main export is services. It constitutes 79 per cent of the economy, according to the Office of National Statistics. Without access to the single market for services, and without free movement of skilled workers, the financial sector will have a strong incentive to move to the European mainland.

This is Germany’s gain. There is a general consensus that many banks are ready to move if Britain quits the single market, and Frankfurt is an obvious destination.

In an election year, this is welcome news for Merkel. That the British Prime Minister voluntarily gives up the access to the internal market is a boon for the German Chancellor and solves several of her problems. 

May’s acceptance that Britain will not be in the single market shows that no country is able to secure a better deal outside the EU. This will deter other countries from following the UK’s example. 

Moreover, securing a deal that will make Frankfurt the financial centre in Europe will give Merkel a political boost, and will take focus away from other issues such as immigration.

Despite the rise of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party, the largely proportional electoral system in Germany will all but guarantee that the current coalition government continues after the elections to the Bundestag in September.

Before the referendum in June last year, Brexiteers published a poster with the mildly xenophobic message "Halt ze German advance". By essentially caving in to Merkel’s demands before these have been expressly stated, Mrs May will strengthen Germany at Britain’s expense. 

Perhaps, the German word schadenfreude comes to mind?

Matthew Qvortrup is author of the book Angela Merkel: Europe’s Most Influential Leader published by Duckworth, and professor of applied political science at Coventry University.