Sadly, the UK government seems hell bent on ignoring the lessons it should have learnt after the events following the chancellor of the exchequer’s budget speech that included an announcement that cuts would be made to the Personal Independence Payment disability benefit which is paid to people with a whole range of disabilities. They include both physical and mental disabilities as well as illnesses such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and many more.
He made the announcement on March 16 – to be followed two days later by the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith from his role as work and pensions secretary.
The planned cuts were dumped in a government U-turn confirmed by new work and pensions secretary, Stephen Crabb, the next week.
Disability groups were looking for other signs of improvement too but these were dashed this week when, on Monday, Crabb told the House of Commons that disability benefit cuts already agreed are among policies that are “changing things for the better”.
Campaigners for people with disabilities had been hopeful that the government would also reverse the £30 a week cut to the amount of benefit to be paid, from next year, to new claimants of Employment and Support Allowance in its Work Related Activity Group.
But, despite the Disability Benefits Consortium finding that even the current rate of ESA has left around a third of claimants struggling to afford to buy food, the much sought-after reversal was not to be. It seems Mr Crabb is determined to carry on just as his predecessor Iain Duncah Smith was doing before he suddenly discovered his conscience in the wake of the budget.
Mr Crabb made the, some would say outrageous, claim at his first Work and Pensions Questions session in the House of Commons, during which he was asked how he differed from Iain Duncan Smith. Not a lot, I’d say.
Owen Smith, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, did urge the minister to make a U-turn on those ESA cuts and, getting a negative response, Smith told Crabb that disabled people would “be disappointed he won’t reverse” them.
However, Stephen Crabb demonstrated he had learned nothing from the events of eight weeks ago by proceeding to defend the indefensible. He said that there was “no reason” to change the government’s approach.
“We are a government that has helped deliver the changes that has seen a huge fall in workless household, we’re seeing nearly half a million more children growing up in a home, seeing a mum or dad going up to work.
“There is no reason to change policies that are changing things for the better for those who have least in our society,” he said.
So, is Stephen Crabb any better, or more caring, than Iain Duncan Smith was? Sorry, no, just more of the same.