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.