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Personal Independence Payment

I believe we must have a social security system which is efficient, fair and compassionate and I appreciate how concerned many people with disabilities and their families have been about the possibility of changes to the eligibility criteria for PIP. I also recognise how vital and valued this support is in helping meet the additional costs that having a disability can bring, such as purchasing equipment, services and support, and in enabling disabled people to live independently. 

As I am sure you are aware, just two years after PIP was introduced, in December 2015 the Government launched a consultation regarding aids and appliances and the daily living component of PIP, which closed on the 29 January. On 11 March the Government announced it would be changing the PIP assessment criteria, reducing the number of points for the use of an aid or appliance against two out of the seven Daily Living activities assessed - dressing and managing toilet needs. This was confirmed at the Budget where it was set out that the Government would be cutting £1.2 billion in support, meaning that over 600,000 disabled people would lose almost £2000 a year. I was very concerned about a measure contained in the Budget which would further cut support for those most in need when the Budget also contained tax breaks for those who least need them.

It was therefore welcome that in the week following the Budget the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced a vital U-turn, confirming that the Government would not be going ahead with the changes to PIP. I also welcome the Work and Pensions Secretary's statement that the Government have 'no further plans to make welfare savings'.

However, I am disappointed that the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions did not also use this opportunity to also reverse cuts to Employment and Support Allowance Work (ESA), contained in the Welfare Reform and Work Act, which will see the level of support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) cut by around £30 a week from April 2017. I voted against this Bill in its entirety and I believe that this is an unfair and unjust measure, which will hurt vulnerable people who through no fault of their own are suffering from serious illnesses and are in and out of work intermittently. 

The Government's welfare reforms must help not hinder disabled people and I believe that the Government is reneging on its own manifesto commitment to protect social security for disabled people through its cuts to ESA. 

I hope that the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will now take the opportunity to stand up for a fair and progressive renewal of our welfare state that is there to support people when they need it most.

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