‘Just cruelty’: How charities and campaigners reacted to the government’s latest attacks on disability benefits

'We continue to be the whipping community for ALL government economic failure. Enough. This is just cruelty'

Mel Stride work and pensions Tory minister

The government’s latest attacks on disability welfare has caused further outrage and concern from campaigners, charities and MPs as the Tories announce further cruel plans to cut disabled people’s benefits. 

It comes as earlier this month Rishi Sunak announced a heartless clamp down on disability welfare with the aim to toughen the eligibility criteria for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), plans described as ‘an assault on disabled people’. 

More proposed changes are being announced ahead of the publication of a “green paper” consultation, as the Work and Pensions Minister Mel Stride gave further details this morning on just how cruel the Tories planned welfare reforms are. 

Speaking to the media today, Stride said that people with depression or anxiety could lose access to sickness benefits under the new reforms, while the Telegraph reported it could also see disabled people stripped of a monthly cash payment and provided vouchers instead. 

Rishi Sunak said he wants to get more people into work and reduce the government’s welfare bill, with Stride referring to it as a “sustainability issue”. But plans to tighten the eligibility criteria for PIP have been blasted by critics with heavy criticism also aimed at the government’s harmful rhetoric towards disabled people. 

The organisation Disability Rights UK said the government’s narrative that disabled people are a burden on the benefits system is “utterly untrue”, as the group reacted to the latest plans.

“Today, the Government have yet again gone on the attack by singling out Disabled people as a burden on the benefits system,” Disability Rights UK reacted. “Utterly untrue, but we continue to be the whipping community for ALL government economic failure. Enough. This is just cruelty.”

Executive Director at the disability equality charity Scope, James Taylor, said today that it was hard to have faith that the consultation was “about anything other than cutting the benefits bill, no matter the impact.”

“Life costs a lot more for disabled people, including people with mental health conditions. Threatening to take away the low amount of income PIP provides won’t solve the country’s problems,” Taylor said.

He hit back at the Prime Minister’s claims that ‘mental health culture’ had gone too far and blasted the government’s record on crumbling public services, poor quality jobs and increased rates of poverty.

“The government needs to end this reckless assault on disabled people and focus on how to fix the real underlying issues,” said Taylor. 

Activist and journalist Rachel Charlton-Dailey said on X: “The whole point of benefits is to help disabled people live. Vouchers would limit where we spend our cash and “claiming back” would put us into even further debt. The tories want us dead.”

One disability campaigner wrote today on X: “Be nice today to do anything without bursting into tears at the sheer cruel, vindictive & sadistic unfairness of it all. What do I say to my disabled daughter about her future? What do I say? How do I tell her the future under this government is one they don’t want her in?”

Social change group Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlighted the link between disability and poverty, and warned against playing “political football” with people’s lives. 

“Almost two thirds of people in destitution have a chronic health condition or disability. People in this position shouldn’t be used as a political football. We need action, not rhetoric from politicians”, the non-profit wrote. 

“PIP is a benefit to help people with the additional costs of having a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability. This benefit is a big share of many claimants’ income.

“Cutting it will lead to a large hit to future claimants’ living standards.”

In households where an individual receives PIP and no-one is in work, seven in ten working-age adults are in material deprivation, this is three times the rate across all working-age households. In these households 40% experienced food insecurity and over 30% were unable to keep their homes warm. 

Labour’s Shadow Minister for Disabled People Vicky Foxcroft accused the government of scapegoating disabled people and those with long-term health conditions for the problems they have created. 

“PIP was created by the Tories but isn’t working for disabled people (or the taxpayer).DWPgovuk too often fails to get decisions right first time, leading to lengthy delays, reassessments and a stressful appeals process.”

Labour MP Marsha de Codova said it was “despicable” that the Tories are “yet again scapegoating disabled people”, “planning cruel cuts” in order to “distract attention from their mess”.

Doctors have also hit back at the government’s proposals to cut PIP and penalise those with mental health conditions.

Consultant Dr Jay Watts commented: “Dear Mel Stride,

“PIP has nothing to do with employment. PIP is for moderate to severe disability and is v difficult to qualify for. Noone gets PIP ‘for’ depression or anxiety. It is based on a functional analysis. Stop playing smoke and mirrors with people’s lives.”

A palliative care doctor wrote on X: “Mel Stride is no doctor, and nor is Rishi Sunak. They have no idea how crippling severe depression or anxiety can be. They’re simply smearing the vulnerable for cheap, populist, electoral gain. It’s vicious, unforgivable stuff.”

Whilst mental health charities also highlighted the huge waiting lists even to access mental health support and the need to focus on investing in the chronically underfunded sector.

Mental health charity Mind said: “People don’t choose to be on disability benefits. It’s their last resort.

“Stop blaming people with mental health problems. If the Secretary of State wants a grown-up conversation about this, then he should meet with us. We’ve sent an invite.”

A group of charities have backed a petition launched by Scope in reaction to the welfare cuts which demands that the government; stop demonising those who cannot work, support people who want to work and advocate for a benefits system that is kind. 

(Image credit: UK Government)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward

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