Thursday, March 02, 2017

UK – Corbyn takes PM to task over attack on disabled people

Tories are far from shedding their “nasty party” reputation after sneaking out a cruel proposal to deny benefits to more than 160,000 disabled people, Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday.

The Labour leader condemned the Conservative government for shunting aside an employment tribunal decision that opposed cuts to the personal independence payment (PIP).

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) shunned the idea of a prior consultation and chose to quietly disclose the changes in a written ministerial statement instead of announcing it in Parliament, he added.

He urged Ms May to bin the proposals that would deny PIP to claimants with severe psychological complications including depression, anxiety, dementia, cognitive disorders from illnesses such as strokes, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.

The tribunal had ruled that people with these conditions who cannot travel without assistance must be treated like those who are blind. Those who need support to take medication should be assessed the same way as those managing therapies at home like dialysis, it added.

Mr Corbyn also criticised Tory MP and head of Ms May’s policy unit George Freeman for suggesting people suffering from mental health problems were not “really disabled.”

He asked: “Isn’t that proof the nasty party is still around?” Ms May — who famously used the phrase in a speech in 2002 — replied that Mr Freeman has apologised for his remarks.

She also claimed that Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green made calls to his Labour counterpart Debbie Abrahams to discuss the PIP changes. No call was made to Ms Abrahams’s office, Mr Corbyn said.

A Downing Street source later claimed that Mr Green had left a voicemail message on Ms Abrahams’s mobile as well as calling her parliamentary and constituency offices.
But a Labour spokesman said: “As I understand it the message was left during out-of-office hours.

“And by the time it was picked up, we were already dealing with the substantive issue of 160,000 people who were expecting in two weeks’ time to receive substantive rises in PIP payments and now won’t as a result of the government’s decision.”

A coalition of charities called Disability Benefits Consortium has issued a plea to Ms May before next week’s Spring Budget to rethink planned cuts for new employment and support allowance claimants. They could lose out on £1,500 a year when placed on the so-called work related activity group scheme, it said.

Only 1 per cent of the 500 surveyed ESA claimants thought the change — due to take effect in April — would help them find suitable work, according to a letter the coalition sent to Ms May.
By contrast, 45 per cent said the cut would make it harder for their health to recover and would probably mean them returning to work later.

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