Welfare reform bill: Government could be set for two U-turns


The government could be set for major climb-downs over two of its most controversial cuts to benefits claimed by disabled people.

As the government launched its new welfare reform bill, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith confirmed that plans to cut housing benefit by 10 per cent for anyone claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) for more than a year would not now be included in the bill.

The proposal had drawn widespread criticism from campaigners who said disabled people faced multiple barriers to finding work and so were more likely to be on JSA for long periods of time.

They also said that increasing numbers of disabled people were claiming JSA because of the unfairness of the eligibility test for employment and support allowance, the replacement for incapacity benefit.

But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is also rethinking plans to remove the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) from most disabled people in residential care.

The plans have caused outrage among disabled people and disability organisations since they were announced last year.

Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, has repeatedly claimed that the cut would remove the “overlap” between the mobility component and the obligations of local authorities and care homes to provide transport for disabled residents.

The DWP said this provision of mobility was “patchy” across the country, and it had now decided to “take a step back” and “review the policy”, although the measure was still in the bill.

A DWP spokesman told Disability News Service: “We know there have been a lot of people who have not been happy with the measure. We have listened to people.”

But he said no decision had yet been made and he could not say how long the review would take.

Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, greeted the review with caution, saying he had no confidence that the government would adequately resource any alternative solution.

And Anne Kane, policy manager for Inclusion London, added: “Our position has to be that it is in the bill and we are opposing it until we are told otherwise.”

But she welcomed the housing benefit u-turn. “We think that is very important because significant numbers of disabled people would have been affected by that because of the impact that cuts to employment and support allowance will have.”

But she added: “It is a drop in the ocean in terms of the things that have got to be stopped in this bill.”

17 February 2011