In the run-up to this week’s General Election, the Tories have consistently failed to answer questions as to where exactly they intend to cut the welfare budget in order to hit their target of reducing it by £12 billion in the first two years of the next Parliament.
One of the areas in which cuts are already being made is benefits for sick and disabled people. Incapacity Benefit has already been replaced with Employment and Support Allowance – an even tougher regime than IB for those unable to work because of a health condition with testing administered by private sector providers – and now in much the same way Disability Living Allowance is being replaced with Personal Independence Payments or PiPs, which the Government predicts will produce savings of twenty per cent by 2015-16.
One theme the Tories have been promoting since its launch in a speech by the Chancellor George Osborne to the Conservative party conference in 2012 is that of “workers versus shirkers”, attempting to set so-called “strivers” against those supposedly happy to live on benefits. As well as being an electoral pitch to low-paid and middle-income earners, this aims to obscure their ideologically driven push towards a radically smaller state. It also ignores the fact that DLA, as with other benefits being cut or abolished such as Child Benefit, Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credit, is largely claimed by those in work to meet living costs not covered by their wages.
Some of the effects of the Tory drive to cut disability benefits can already be seen: as well as removing the care component of the benefit from those claiming DLA, people deemed ineligible to receive PiPs also lose the mobility element which in many cases funded the leasing of cars under the Motabilty scheme (Motability, founded and led by former P&O chairman and now Conservative peer Lord Sterling, has been muted in its response to this attack on the scheme's members).
Although Labour in opposition has criticised the implementation of PiP, it has so far failed to commit to abolish it and return to DLA, a non-contributory, non-means-tested benefit which helped millions of disabled people to lead more independent and fuller lives. It should do so now and end the disgraceful kicking of some of society’s poorest which the Tories seem to delight in.