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Disabled People: Benefits

Volume 609: debated on Monday 9 May 2016

2. What assessment he has made of the effect on disabled people of changes to benefits since 2012. (904878)

The Government set out on 20 July 2015 our assessment of the impact of the welfare policies in the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, with similar assessments for previous changes. Spending to support people with disabilities and health conditions will be higher in real terms in every year to 2020 than in 2012.

Once universal credit has been fully implemented, severely disabled people with no adult to assist them will be entitled to about £58 less per week than under the current system. Is the Minister concerned that young carers are likely to face considerable additional burdens as a result of the loss of the severe disability premium from about 25,000 disabled single parents?

I did not quite pick up all the hon. Gentleman’s points, but a number of exemptions are in place. We continue to review the best way to protect vulnerable people. Universal credit will be a far better, far simpler and far more supportive benefit. It will help people.

Will the Minister provide an update on the progress of the joint work and health unit, which is a very sensible way to join up parts of the public sector?

This is a significant part of our ongoing work to bring the two main Departments together to help create additional opportunities and support for colleagues. We will bring forward further details soon.

The fact is that analysis by the House of Commons Library shows that £1.2 billion of support to disabled people is set to be cut in this Parliament. Is this what the Secretary of State means about having a new conversation with disabled people?

Let me challenge the hon. Gentleman back on that. In my area, spending on personal independence payment and disability living allowance will be £16.6 billion, as compared with £12.7 billion under the previous Government. Overall, we spend nearly £50 billion a year on benefits to support people with disabilities and health conditions. That is rising every year to 2020. Record amounts of money are being spent.

I recently met Nick Gregory and his team at Grimsby Jobcentre, which serves my constituency. They are doing excellent work in getting disabled people and those with learning difficulties back into work. Will the Minister enlighten us on what further initiatives are planned?

It is great to hear about the fantastic work in my hon. Friend’s constituency and I would like to meet him to discuss it further. We continue to upskill staff across the jobcentre network, increasing the number of disability advisers and making improvements to our Work programme and Work Choice programme.

The Children’s Society and Citizens Advice report that the families of about 100,000 disabled children, who currently receive support through DLA, are set to see that support halved under universal credit. That will have a real impact on their quality of life and longer-term life chances. With a new Secretary of State at the helm, Ministers have a chance to step back from the universal credit debacle. Will they look again at the impact on disabled children and look for fairer alternatives?

Again, I challenge the hon. Lady back on that. Any analysis of universal credit has to take into account the introduction of the national living wage, the extension of childcare, support for working parents and increases to the personal tax allowance. It is a simpler system. More generous childcare provision supports those who work for just a few hours and there will be a named contact. As we have previously set out, the PIP benefit system is far more generous than the old DLA system.

The research of reputable organisations simply does not bear that out. The reality is that disabled children are not the only ones who will lose out under universal credit. A devastating report by the Resolution Foundation published just last week found that, even with tax allowances and the increase in the minimum wage, under universal credit half a million working families will be significantly worse off. Disabled people, disabled children and low-income working families—are these really the people the Tories want to target to pay for austerity cuts and tax cuts for the rich?

We are doing more to support working households. The proportion of people in relative poverty who live in a family with someone who is disabled has fallen since 2010. There are a number of exemptions to all our benefit cap and freeze announcements, including for those on PIP, DLA, industrial injuries benefit, attendance allowance and employment and support allowance. Following further talks, we will include carer’s allowance and guardian’s allowance.

Does the Minister agree that Disability Confident events can be crucial in this regard? I am holding my own event in Mid Dorset and North Poole, to which the Minister would be more than welcome to attend. Will he join me in encouraging all Members from both sides of the House to get involved?

So far, 22 MPs have held Disability Confident events, including a joint event between a Conservative MP and a Labour MP—there’s a future coalition for you. Some 515 employers have registered an interest in Disability Confident, up 169 since 23 March. We are getting over 100 registrations a month. This is all about creating additional opportunities for disabled people who are looking for work.

What assessment has the Minister carried out into the £35 per week cut to ESA and its impact on levels of deprivation among disabled people?

When that was announced, a cumulative distributional analysis was also published that included the impacts of welfare spending, health spending, employment support and infrastructure investment, but let us not forget that only 1% of those on ESA were coming off that benefit—that was the case under our Government, the coalition Government and the former Labour Government. We have all tried to make changes but fundamental reform is needed, and that is what the Government will deliver.