A number of people have emailed me over the last 24 hours about cuts to disability benefits.
Contrary to what they have been led to believe, spending on disability support will be higher in every year to 2020 than we inherited from Labour in 2010. We now spend £50 billion a year on benefits to support people with disabilities or health conditions. This represents around 2.5 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product, significantly above spending in countries such as France and Germany and the average for the 34 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) of 2.2 per cent.
It is true that the Government is reducing the rate of a benefit called Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for some new claimants. ESA provides support for those who cannot work because of a health condition or disability.
Those with the most severe work-limiting conditions and disabilities are placed in the Support Group. The payment to people in this group will not be reduced.
People who can do some work-related activity are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) and are expected to prepare themselves for a return to employment. At the moment, these people get higher payments than people who are unemployed but fit to work (who are on Jobseeker's Allowance [JSA]), but they do not get appropriate help into work in the same way as JSA claimants do. The Government is therefore reducing the level of payment that new ESA WRAG claimants will receive to the level JSA claimants receive and using the money saved to provide specific help for ESA WRAG claimants to get into work. No existing claimant will have their benefit reduced. I think this is the right approach – our welfare system should help those who can work into work and provide a decent standard of living to those who can’t work.
So to reiterate:
- we are spending more on disability support than Labour did;
- no existing claimant will have their benefit cut; and
- new claimants with the most severe conditions will get just as much in a year’s time as they do today.