This is the news Theresa May sneaked through while the media obsessed over Labour infighting

Smug May cuts

While the media obsessed over by-elections and Labour infighting, the government used the opportunity to bury some news it would rather you didn’t see. And, yet again, it’s bad news for the most vulnerable in society.

Disability benefits

On Friday 24 February, the government sneaked out emergency legislation designed to prevent 160,000 people from claiming disability benefits they are entitled to.

Two tribunal judgements found that the current criteria for claiming Personal Independence Payment (PIP) were insufficient. In particular, one tribunal found that the mobility element of PIP should be extended to cover those who suffer from “overwhelming psychological distress” travelling alone.

And a second tribunal ruled that the daily living element should cover those who needed help taking medication or monitoring a health condition.

Cutting costs

But the government decided to ignore the rulings. The Department for Work and Pensions warned that the changes would cost £3.7bn extra by 2022. And so the government introduced emergency legislation in order to save money at the expense of disabled people.

Shadow work and pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams slammed the decision:

This is an unprecedented attempt to subvert an independent tribunal judgment by a government with contempt for judicial process.

Read on...

While a spokesman for Disability Rights UK pointed out:

The DWP itself admits this will include for example those who have a learning disability, diabetes, epilepsy, anxiety or dementia.

And Disabilities Minister Penny Mordaunt was criticised after she failed to even consult the government’s Social Security Advisory Committee. Mordaunt claimed that the legislation would:

Make sure we are giving support to those who need it most.

Adding insult to injury

But if denying 160,000 people access to a much-needed benefit wasn’t bad enough, comments from a top government advisor added insult to injury.

George Freeman, Conservative MP, and head of the Number 10 Downing Street policy unit described the tribunal decisions as “bizarre”. Freeman further claimed that:

We want to make sure we get the money to the really disabled people who need it.

And that the tribunal decisions:

now mean benefits are being given to people who are taking pills at home, who suffer from anxiety.

Abrahams called for Freeman to “immediately apologise” and pointed out that:

Not only does this fly in the face of the commitment to ‘parity of esteem’ for people with mental health conditions, but it directly contradicts Theresa May’s comments on mental health and two recent tribunal judgements.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission also hit back against his remarks. Chief Executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, stated:

There are many people who have unseen disabilities and they need just as much support. These comments will only feed into negative perceptions of disability and add to the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

The pay rise

Meanwhile, on the same day as this announcement of cuts to the most vulnerable in society, it was revealed that MPs will once again get a pay rise which breaks the government’s own cap for public sector workers. From 1 April, MPs will see their salaries rise from £74,962 to £76,011. MPs further saw a 10% increase in their wages in 2015 and an additional 1.3% increase in 2016.

This 1.3% increase is more than many public sector workers are likely to see. For example, Education Secretary, Justine Greening, said that she wants to cap teacher’s salaries at 1%. Meanwhile, many NHS staff and the armed forces will also see their pay increases capped at 1%.

Sneaking out news

Two important by-elections alongside Labour infighting were always going to be a good time to bury bad news. And the government certainly attempted to do so in this attack on disabled people. But to do so alongside news of an MP pay rise is disgusting.

The government appears not to care about the disabled. Despite Theresa May’s promises, her MPs are showing contempt for those with very real mental health problems. And while they’re bleating about austerity and cuts, they’re still prepared to accept regular pay rises themselves.

It should be clear to all where this government’s priorities lie. And it should be clear that we need to take action against it.

Get Involved!

– Support Disabled People Against the Cuts.

Featured image via Flickr


We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed