By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
Shockingly MPs have overturned a Lords decision to stop cuts to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) meaning disabled people will now be £30 a week worse off. It is hoped this cut would help people back into work, but it has even left some Tory backbenchers uneasy.
The Government had previously been beaten by the Lords, over the reduction of the allowance for people in the work related activity group (WRAG), because they are currently unable to work due to their health or disability, from £103 down to £74.
However, minsters notched up a victory over peers as the amendment, which would have stopped the brutal cut in its tracks, was defeated 306 to 279 in the Commons.
Priti Patel the Employment Minister had argued that the cut would help more disabled people to get back into work, as the money saved would be reinvested in helping people with “limited capability” into employment.
Tory MP Heidi Allen was skeptical to the changes, she said: “”The DWP talk of a White Paper that will provide their strategy of offering a different kind of support to help those people return to work.
“There is apparently also some £100 million made available by 2020/21. I have listened intently today to Ms Patel for reassurance as to how that money will be spent and I acknowledge that she has mentioned a task force will be set up between the department and charities.
“But this should have happened before decisions were made to reduce financial support. I am uncomfortable in agreeing to these cuts until I know what the new world will look like for these people.”
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “We are extremely disappointed to hear that MPs have voted to cut the financial support available to people who cannot work because of illness or disability. Reducing the amount provided will make people’s lives even more difficult and will do nothing to help them return to work, especially given that there is a relationship between financial difficulties and experience of mental health problems.”
Ministers also overturned a Lords amendment which would have required them to tell Parliament every what percentage of children were living in low-income households, by 310 votes to 277, majority 33.
Opponents warned that it was wrong to downplay income-related measures of child poverty levels. However, Ms Patel said focusing on income is a “failed approach” that does not tackle the root causes of poverty.
Watch Heidi Allen’s Speech here