How Osborne's benefits cuts will hit the disabled

Disability campaigners accuse Osborne of misleading the public over his welfare cuts.

In his Autumn Statement, George Osborne sought to give the impression that he had protected the disabled from his benefits cuts. He told the Commons:

We will support the vulnerable.

So carer benefits and disability benefits, including disability elements of tax credits, will be increased in line with inflation

The Chancellor went on to announce that working age benefits would be uprated by just one per cent for the next three years. But what he didn't say is that more than half a million disabled people rely on one of these benefits - the Employment and Support Allowance (introduced as a replacement for Incapacity Benefit) - for their income. Today's Times (£) has an important report on how disability campaigners have responded.

Steve Winyard, co-chairman of the Hardest Hit Coalition, made up of 90 charities and campaign groups, told the paper: "The Chancellor’s statement that he will protect disabled people from welfare cuts is utterly misleading.

"It does not reflect the reality for thousands of disabled people who are already facing barriers to getting into work and education. Cuts to the support they depend upon risk pushing them into poverty, debt and isolation." The disabled stand to lose £400 over the next three years from the real-terms cut in ESA.

Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson said: "The people who can least afford appear to be getting hit again."

As Labour contemplates whether to vote against Osborne’s Welfare Uprating Bill (the bill, which is not necessary to introduce the below-inflation rise, is intended as a political trap for Miliband's party), the news that Osborne's cuts will affect the disabled could provide a useful line of attack. In addition to pointing out that the Chancellor is hitting "the strivers" - 60 per cent of the cuts will fall on working families - Labour can now argue that he's hitting the most vulnerable too.

Chancellor George Osborne promised that he would "support the vulnerable" in his Autumn Statement. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.