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Charities call on new government to change benefit system

Keir Starmer

After spending their first weekend in government, Labour are being urged to overhaul the current benefits system by leading charities supporting disabled people.

Leading up to his win as our new Prime Minister, Keir Starmer sparked concern stating: “Handouts from the state do not nurture the same sense of self-reliant dignity as a fair wage”.

He implied his government would focus on moving vulnerable people off benefits, encouraging them into employment which would result in cuts to the welfare bill instead of rising financial support.

Despite a number of charities coming out in favour of the new government’s strategy, they have also raised concerns on how Labour will help severely disabled and sick people who are unable to work.

James Taylor, director of strategy at Scope, told The Big Issue: “Change on disability equality needs to begin now. For too long, disabled people’s voices have been absent from our national debate. It’s now time for them to be heard by the government, and it’s time to seize this opportunity to build trust with the UK’s 16 million disabled people.

“It’s time to tackle the extra costs of disability; to transform attitudes to disability; to make sure that those of us who want to work can do so; and, to fix our failing benefits system so that all disabled people are valued.

“This is the change disabled people want and deserve. We look forward to working with this new government to make it happen.”

Mikey Erhardt, campaigner at Disability Rights UK, wants Labour to stop punitive sanctions, the two-child limit, benefit caps and the five weeks successful claimants have to wait until they receive their first benefit payment.

“The Labour Party has an opportunity to use an immense majority in the House of Commons to deliver real change for disabled people across the country. The electoral mandate was for change, not for the status quo, which for our welfare system would mean perpetuating harm to more and more people,” he told the publication.

“Mere months before votes were cast, the United Nations found that our social security system devalued Disabled people and undermined our human dignity. No matter our background, no one should be left without a financial safety net, meaning we can live independent lives.”

Erhardt added: “This election proved change is possible.

Disabled people across the country are ready to push for a social security system to deliver all we deserve.”

So far Labour has declined to comment if they intend to make it increasingly more difficult to be successful for the health element of universal credit, which goes to individuals living with a physical or mental health condition which limits their capacity to work.

The Department for Work and Pensions [DWP] plans to change work capability assessments next year which will see lower benefits or higher work-search conditions for around 457,000 people by 2028/29.

Ayla Ozmen, director of policy and campaigns at anti-poverty charity Z2K, said: “One of the first things that the government must do is to scrap the plans set in motion by the previous government to restrict eligibility for incapacity benefits from 2025 – a move that will serve only to push seriously ill and disabled people deeper into poverty.”

[ The 2024 general election result saw the highest proportion of seats to vote share of any Labour victory looking all the way back to the first Labour win in 1923. ]

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