TORY MINISTER CLAIMS “NO SAVINGS” IN RETRACTED STATEMENT WHILE SCOTS DISPROPORTIONATELY HIT
Recent figures have revealed that the UK Government’s policy to abolish the Work Related Activity Component (WRAC) for claimants of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) has cut their incomes by over £143.2m since it was enforced in April 2017.
Claimants of ESA suffer from a disability or health condition that affects how much they can work. Claimants are put in one of two groups: the Support Group – those who cannot work – and the Work Related Activity Group – those who require support returning to work.
In April 2017, the UK Government abolished the WRAC resulting in a weekly cut of £29.05. In response to a Parliamentary Question from Mrs Fellows, Disabilities Minister, Justin Tomlinson, claimed that “there are no savings” and that the cut “enabled the Department to recycle money”.
This answer was retracted four days later and replaced with the claim that the figures were not available and would incur disproportionate costs to calculate.
But figures from the House of Commons Library reveal that between April 2017 and June 2019, approximately over £143.2m has been cut from people with disabilities seeking to get into work.
£19.5m – or 13.6% – has been disproportionately cut from Scottish claimants despite Scotland making up 8.2% of the UK population.
Total cuts are likely to be much higher as Universal Credit claimants in the equivalent Limited Capability for Work group are also affected, but not identifiable. A Treasury forecast in 2017 estimated that by 2020/21, a total of £510m would be cut from ESA and Universal Credit incomes through the measure.
Commenting, the SNP’s Disabilities spokesperson, Marion Fellows, said:
“Recent figures show the shocking extent of the Tories punitive cuts to the incomes of society’s most vulnerable people. A cut to peoples’ incomes of over £1,500 a year has had a devastating impact. The Tories must reverse their cuts.
“The Minister’s response is insulting to those people whose incomes are being hit. Worse yet, the UK Government has shamefully tried to hide how much they have cut by claiming it is too expensive to calculate when the Commons Library was easily able to produce reliable figures.
“Scotland is bearing the brunt of this Tory cut. With independence, we can take control of all welfare powers and use them to support disabled people into work. We can do this by improving the Access to Work scheme and implementing protective legislation for disabled people.
“Instead, the Tories’ are using their brutal welfare regime as a stick to beat vulnerable people into work by depriving them of basic support. These figures are especially shocking given many people have been wrongfully declared capable of working.
“This is in stark contrast to the work of the SNP Scottish Government who are building a social security system based on fairness, dignity and respect. With the full powers, we can do so much more.”