This week MPs voted through the Government’s plan to cut Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit. This is part of the Welfare Reform Bill which is soon finishing up in Parliament.
This is pretty tough news for all of us who have campaigned hard to try and stop the cut. This includes charities like Mencap but also MPs across all the parties who spoke up for people with a learning disability in the debates.
We were also hugely helped by our friends in the House of Lords including Lord Low, Baroness Meacher, Baroness Tanni Grey Tompson and of course our 92 year old President Lord Rix! They helped bring people together from across all the parties to vote down the cut in two important debates.
It was also great to see so many people with a learning disability involved in the campaign against the cut whether emailing their local MP, tweeting their support or coming to the lobby of parliament back on a very cold January day in Parliament!
Why did the Government push this through?
The Government said that it needed to cut these benefits because if disabled people had less money it would persuade more of them to look for work.
Pretty shocking really!
We don’t believe it is benefits that are stopping people with a learning disability getting work. The problem is that a lot of people don’t get the support they need and employers often don’t want to give them a chance.
In the end the Government didn’t offer any half decent evidence to back up its idea and to quote one of our heroes Lord Low ‘we won the argument but lost the vote.’
What will happen next?
From April 2017 new claimants to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the Work Related Activity Group will receive £30 a week less. If you are in the ESA support group you will not be affected.
The same cut will also be true for people getting the new Universal Credit.
The Government in the Summer will say how it is going to try and support more people into work and we at Mencap will be trying to make sure they understand what people with a learning disability need.
Reasons to be cheerful
So many of you have helped us campaigning against this cut and the Government has heard us loud and clear!
I really believe they will think twice the next time they try to cut support for people with a learning disability.
If they do then we will do all we can to make sure the voices of people with a learning disability and their families are heard throughout the corridors of parliament!