Disability news

Labour would scrap disability benefit reforms

Vicky Foxcroft

Labour has said if they won the next electron the party would not combine disability benefit assessments.

As an alternative Labour work liaise with disabled communities to form a replacement policy, but at this stage has not explained their strategy. 

Shadow Disabilities Minister Vicky Foxcroft said there is a “lack of trust” between the government and disabled people and any changes to the system must be done in partnership with those who apply and receive the benefits.

The government announced there would be changes to the benefit system, but have not released any further information.

Ms Foxcroft told i: “We really want to make sure that we get this right when we’re in government, so we have said we will make sure we co-produce this with disabled people.

“Disabled people and organisations say there’s a huge lack of trust in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) so you need to massively change that culture so it’s not seen as such a stressful experience when people are going through the assessment process.

“The best way of getting that right is by making sure that we design that with disabled people at the heart of it.”

The government has said it will stop benefit payment for people who have limited capability for work and work-related activity [LCWRA] and replace it with personal independence payments [PIP] which is currently given to disabled people supporting their day-to-day help.

According to the DWP these changes will happen gradually and claimants will be financially protected.

But Foxcroft has raised concerns for the estimated 630,000 people who are unable to work because of their health conditions and are not eligible for PIP.

“While the government is saying that there’s transitional arrangements for them, who else is coming in the future that won’t necessarily have those transitional arrangements?” she asked. “There’s quite a lot of worries about that and whether or not there’ll be a move towards more sanctions.”

There are added concerns for people living with alternating conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis or suffering from their mental health who could be forced into work.

Foxcroft wants to pay added attention to reasonable adjustments for employees who need extra time carrying out a task.

“I think there needs to be a stronger approach towards people being able to get those reasonable adjustments. And part of that is around people being able to ensure that their rights are taken forward,” she said.

Labour has been putting pressure on the government to go public with their plans to reform Work Capability Assessments and said they would not go ahead with the proposed changes if they win the next election.

Foxcroft said: “There are certain things that you can think of where people have conditions that aren’t going to get better and most likely only deteriorate, yet they have to go through assessments all the time. Does that make sense? Or should you just have a light touch that says, if you want to be re-assessed you can, because you think you might be awarded more, but if you don’t… why do we keep doing that all the time when we know the condition is not going to get any better?”

She shared concerns of disabled people losing all their support if there was only one single benefit they could apply for.

“While you could think there’s some common sense in it, the fear in the system means people don’t have the trust to think if there was one assessment, that assessment would happen correctly,” she said.

A government spokesperson said: “Most people claiming health and disability benefits report having a positive experience, and the reforms announced in the Health and Disability White Paper will further improve the overall experience of, and trust in, the benefits system for disabled people.

“We are making the biggest reforms in a decade – including scrapping the Work Capability Assessment – to improve trust and transparency in our decisions and processes. We will take time to carefully consider how best to implement the changes, engaging with disabled people and people with health conditions, as well as our stakeholders, as our proposals develop.”

[ Proposed legislation to enforce any changes to Work Capacity Assessments will not come into force until after the next election. ]

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