There are no cash losers among those in receipt of employment and support allowance and the universal credit equivalent prior to April 2017, including those who temporarily leave ESA to try out work and then return. Since April, new claimants who are capable of preparing for work receive a rate of benefits on a par with jobseeker’s allowance.
I welcome the Minister to her place. Changes to benefits are actually resulting in huge cuts to the money that people with disabilities have to live on. The ESA cut was touted by the Government as a way to remove perverse incentives and encourage people into work. However, does the Minister agree that starvation does not encourage anyone into work and that cutting off funding to people in need does not help to end that need? Will she commit to reversing these invidious cuts?
There are no cuts for people on those benefits. Let me be absolutely clear about that. Since April 2017, people who are able to work receive a personal support package. We have already recruited 300 new disability employment advisers, and we have allocated £15 million to the flexible support fund. We are doing absolutely everything that we can to ensure that people who are able to make the journey back to work have the support that they need.
I might have a bit more faith in the Minister’s comments if one of her colleagues had not recently stood in exactly the same place and said, “There is no austerity.” Is the Minister aware that the Scottish Government estimate that between 7,000 and 10,000 people in my constituency and elsewhere in Scotland stand to lose the work-related activity component of the allowances? That is a cut in income that people cannot afford. Will she undertake to speak to the Chancellor ahead of his Budget as a matter of urgency and ask him to reverse the cuts and stop punishing the poor and the disabled for this Government’s economic failures?
Let me be absolutely clear about what we are trying to achieve here. Many people in Scotland and across our country who are recovering from health conditions or who have disabilities really want to work. We are doing everything that we can to provide them with tailored support, so that they can work and that they can play the full part in society that they want to play and that we want to enable them to do.
Despite record employment, only one in every 100 people in the ESA work-related activity group leaves the benefit system each month. Will the Minister tell us what more she and the Department are doing to help those people into work?
My hon. Friend is quite right to point out the unfair discrimination against people with disabilities in this country who really want to make a contribution to society and who really do want to work. We are doing everything we can, including working with employers through the Disability Confident campaign and providing people seeking employment with the tailor-made support that they need to play their full part in society.