Emma Lewell-Buck MP: Autumn Statement gave Conservatives another opportunity to tighten the screw on those hardest hit

In last week’s Autumn Statement when the Chancellor spoke about the Tories plans to reform disability assessments, my blood ran cold.
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Because we know what ‘reform’ means to this Government. Another opportunity to tighten the screw on the hardest hit. To build on the cruelty endured from over a decade of austerity and punitive welfare reform.

Treating people with disabilities and people who can’t work as though they are deliberately opting out of the labour market, as if it is a lifestyle choice, is shameful.

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With these reforms, current disability benefits claimants face the threat of having what little was left of their welfare safety net ripped away after 18-months through mandatory work placements, denial of free medication and removal of vital support payments.

Planned reform of disability assessments has sparked concern.Planned reform of disability assessments has sparked concern.
Planned reform of disability assessments has sparked concern.

When chronic health conditions mean that working is impossible, focus instead should be on providing targeted specialist support for people rather than using punishments that will force them into poverty.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has forecast that only 10,000 of the 370,000 affected are expected to move into work – with the overwhelming majority of those unable to work having to just make do without these payments.

The kind of baseless assumptions that have informed the Chancellors decision-making totally miss the cause of the employment problem in the UK.

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How are people expected to return to the workforce if they’re waiting years to see a specialist or to receive treatment for a condition that makes work impossible?

With NHS waiting lists at 7.8m under the Conservatives, the ‘nasty party’ reverts to type and squeezes those already let down by a system that they have systematically dismantled.

The Disability Benefits Consortium described these changes as a “cynical attack on disability benefits (which) will have a devastating impact on those on the lowest incomes”.

But it’s hardly surprising from this government.

In 2019, a United Nations investigation found that disabled peoples’s rights were being systematically violated by Conservative Minsters. Recently, the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that nothing at all had changed.

It is clear the Tories will never treat disabled people with respect.