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Support for Disabled People

Volume 706: debated on Wednesday 12 January 2022

4. What assessment she has made of the impact of the autumn Budget and spending review 2021 on support for disabled people. [R] (905018)

Under the 2021 spending review there will be delivery of targeted support for disabled people, including £1.1 billion of investment in helping them to get into work, £2.6 billion of funding for new school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities, and much more on health and other matters.

In the autumn statement the Government snuck out a £70 million stealth cut to benefits. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak to the Minister before questions, and I know he is not the Minister responsible, but can he confirm that disabled people will be involved in the process and say how it will affect them? If he cannot, will the Minister responsible write to me?

Yes, the Minister for Disabled People will write to the hon. Gentleman, but I can confirm that we will spend the record sum of £58 billion this year on benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the health and disability Green Paper and the strategy published in the summer of last year, which will be responded to in this House in the summer of this year.

The Conservatives are simply unable to get a grip on the cost of living crisis, and disabled people are paying the price. After failing to act in the Budget, yesterday the Conservatives voted against measures to slash the cost of fuel, which would have disproportionately benefited disabled people, who are more likely to be in fuel poverty. Indeed, the Conservatives seem to have little understanding of the reality of disabled people’s lives. Can anyone on the much enlarged Treasury Bench inform the House what percentage of disabled people currently live in relative poverty?

I will get the Minister for Disabled People to provide the precise stats for the hon. Lady, but I repeat the point that funding for disabled people and people with health conditions is at the record level of £58 billion.

I find it astonishing that no one on the Government Front Bench appears to be aware that 27% of disabled people in our country live in relative poverty—that is up by 1 million more disabled people since 2010. The situation looks set to be exacerbated by the Chancellor’s £70 million stealth cut to disability benefits in the Budget, of which the Minister seemed to be unaware when it was raised a moment ago. Were the rest of the Women and Equalities team consulted about that stealth cut?

The hon. Lady will understand that only the Minister who is asked the particular question can answer. The practical reality is that the spending review has shown that £58 billion is a record sum. It is an increase of nearly £5 billion in real terms since 2010.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy assured me that he has had extensive conversations with the Chancellor about the cost of living crisis that we have just heard about, but what we need is action. Not only have disabled people on benefits lost the £20 a week universal credit uplift, but their benefits are lower in real terms than they were before the pandemic and many face the future with real dread. Disabled people should not bear the brunt of the cost of living crisis, so what discussions has the Minister had with his Treasury colleagues about tackling the toxic blend of Tory cuts, tax hikes, soaring inflation and surging energy bills that is affecting disabled people across the UK?

The hon. Lady will know that there is the household support fund, the winter fuel payments, the cold weather payments and the increase in the state pension by 2.5% for this year and by 3.1% next year, and that there is everything from the energy price cap to the freeze in fuel duty, which all go to assist anybody affected.