Reply from Margaret Curran MP

Rosalind received a reply from Margaret Curran, Labour MP. This is original email

Dear Ms Brewer

Thank you for taking the trouble to contact me on this important matter.

We voted against the Welfare Reform Bill at third reading in the House of Commons.  One of the reasons was that it failed the compassion test – especially in the provisions for disabled people.

The introduction of the Universal Credit will see support for disabled children halved, while the Severe Disability Premium is to be scrapped with nothing appropriate put in its place.

Before opposing the Bill at third reading, we fought hard to amend it.  We tabled the following amendments to the provisions for the Personal Independence Payment: –

·         Scrap plans to abolish the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance for people in residential care homes who use this support to visit friends and family. This will affect around 80,000 people and could leave many with as little as £22 a week on which to live on.

·         Retain automatic eligibility for disability benefits for people who have severe impairments

·         Ensure that disabled people only have to wait 3 months before they can apply for the Personal Independence Payment, rather than the 6 months the Government proposes.

·         Report and consult on the new assessment for PIP to ensure that the assessment is working properly and help is going to those disabled people that need it.

We introduced Employment and Support Allowance in 2008 because we did not believe that it was right for people to be left on Incapacity Benefit without any assistance to return to work, if they are able to do so. That was the right thing to do then, and we support it – although we recognise that there need to be changes to the Work Capability Assessment to make it fit for purpose, and support Professor Harrington’s review.

The Conservatives’ plan to limit contributory ESA (cESA) to one year, based on no evidence at all about how long it takes people to return to work, is just wrong. At committee stage in the House of Commons we moved amendments to:

·         Extend the limit to at least two years

·         Stop the Government from cutting the benefit for young disabled people

·         Stop the cut from hitting immediately in April 2012

·         Protect people who fluctuate between the Work Related Activity and Support groups

We moved amendments to debate these matters at Report Stage, too, but the Government cut short the debate and stopped them from being discussed.

Unfortunately, at every stage, both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats voted against our amendments. The Welfare Reform Bill has now transferred to the Lords. I hope that sense will prevail there, that we will see our reasonable changes to PIP incorporated, and that the one year time limit for cESA will be scrapped. 

The bill remains, however, deeply flawed.

Yours

Margaret Curran MP

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