Tory 'benefits cuts' plans leaked
The Conservatives are considering plans to scrap or restrict a series of benefits saving billions of pounds from the welfare bill, it has been reported.
BBC News reported that leaked documents from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) suggested the benefits affected could include child benefit, the carer's allowance and disability benefits.
The proposals - which were said to have been drawn up by DWP civil servants at the request of Conservative Party officials - could generate savings worth an estimated £5.8 billion a year, the BBC said.
The Conservatives dismissed the report as "ill-informed and inaccurate speculation" and did not represent party policy.
Under Chancellor George Osborne's plans to eliminate the deficit in the public finances, the Tories are committed to cutting the welfare budget by £12 billion by 2017/18.
According the papers seen by the BBC, the benefits which could be affected include:
:: The industrial injuries compensation scheme could be replaced by firms taking out injury insurance for employees, saving £1 billion according to the DWP;
:: Carer's allowance could be restricted to claimants eligible for the Universal Credit saving £1 billion;
:: The contributory element of employment support allowance and jobseeker's allowance could be cut saving £1.3 billion;
:: Disability benefits could no longer be paid tax free saving £1.5 billion according to an estimate by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS);
:: Child benefit could be restricted to the first two children, eventually saving £1 billion according to the IFS.
Other benefits which could be affected, according to the BBC report, included council tax support and regional benefit caps.
A spokeswoman for Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: "This is ill-informed and inaccurate speculation.
"Officials spend a lot of time generating proposals - many not commissioned by politicians.
"It's wrong and misleading to suggest that any of this is part of our plan."
For Labour, shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said the Conservatives now needed to explain how they would achieve the welfare savings they needed to make.
"These plans to hit the disabled and carers were drawn up for Conservative ministers to deliver their extreme cuts plan," she said.
"The Tories now need to come clean about what cuts they plan to make and who will pay the price.
"If they are ruling out these extreme cuts for the most disabled and carers, then it is clear they will be hitting the tax credits, and support for children, for millions of working families."
Liberal Democrat campaign spokesman Lord Scriven said the leaked papers had shown the Tories in " their true colours".
"To build a stronger economy and a fairer society, the welfare system should be designed to help people get on in life," he said.
"But, surprise, surprise the Tories are hell-bent on punishing disabled people and working families with crippling welfare cuts."
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope, said d isabled people would be "extremely concerned" that their financial support could be cut.
"Life costs more if you are disabled. This has a huge impact on disabled people's ability to make ends meet. Personal independence payment is the financial lifeline that disabled people rely on to help cover those extra costs," he said.
"The next government must protect the value of extra costs payments. Last year the Chancellor promised to exempt disability benefits from a welfare freeze. Twenty years since the Disability Discrimination Act this will be a huge step backwards."