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Government's own watchdog criticises DWP plan to cut disability benefits by £30 a week

Published 02/03/2016

Works and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith punches the air as he listens to Chancellor of the Exchequer reveal details of the 2015 Budget
Works and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith punches the air as he listens to Chancellor of the Exchequer reveal details of the 2015 Budget

Conservative proposals to cut disability benefit by £30 a week have been attacked by the Government's equalities watchdog.

On Monday, the House of Lords voted down proposed cuts to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for a second time.

In response, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission EHCR has said the cuts will "exacerbate, rather than reduce, existing inequalities" in addition to disproportionately affecting disabled people.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, EHRC Chief Executive, wrote in a letter to Labour MP Roger Godsiff: "This makes it difficult to understand whether the changes will affect, for example, people with some types of physical disability more or less than people with particular types of poor mental health or who experience bouts of ill-health and may therefore be in and out of work.

“It is also unclear whether applying the changes to new claimants will mean they have a more significant impact on younger disabled people or new migrant workers.

"These are the kinds of matters that we might have expected a more thorough analysis to have considered."

The latest benefit reductions would affect new claimants in the work-related activity group (Wrag) who are declared too ill to work but well enough to undergo work-related interviews or training from April 2017.

The cuts are projected to save £1.4 billion over four years and would reduce Wrag members weekly unemployed benefits from £102.15 to £73.10.

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A DWP spokesperson said: "The current system needs reform because it fails to provide the right incentives to work, and acts to trap people on welfare.

"We are committed to ensuring that people have the best support possible, and that is what these changes are about.

"Current ESA claimants will continue to get the same level of support, and those with the most severe health conditions and disabilities will continue to get a higher rate of benefit."

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