BENEFITS BLITZ! – Tory coalition to make 33% cuts

TUC march to defend the Welfare State in April last year
TUC march to defend the Welfare State in April last year

Campaigners have slammed government plans to proceed with moving people off incapacity benefit and onto the dole.

The government plans to move all incapacity benefit claimants onto the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

The main changes which ESA has brought in compared to the previous system are: (a) A tighter assessment of eligibility, known as the Work Capability Assessment (WCA); and

(b) The introduction of a new distinction between claimants who are deemed to be able to undertake some ‘work related activity’ and those who are not.

Those judged to be able to undertake some ‘work related activity’ will be moved onto Jobseekers Allowance, losing £32 a week.

Following pilot schemes in Aberdeen and Burnley, the DWP said there will be a further limited roll-out from the end of this month before the full nationwide launch in April.

Once the nationwide roll-out begins, around 1.5m people will be assessed.

Campaigners and MPs in Scotland warned at the weekend that the welfare crackdown would plunge already poor Scots into even greater hardship.

The welfare blitz could force around 85,000 Scots off incapacity benefit and onto the dole, while another 110,000, including some cancer sufferers, will be expected to find work in the long term.

This is despite Scotland having just 33,000 job vacancies and 225,000 people already out of work.

Dame Anne Begg, Labour MP for Aberdeen South and chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, said: ‘What the government are actually doing is shifting people from one benefit to another.

‘There is not going to be the money to help these folk get work. There are five people chasing every job, ten in some parts of the country.’

If results across Scotland follow that pattern, one in three will lose £32 a week, about a third of their income, as they go from IB onto the dole.

There are 283,000 Scots on IB, including 51,000 in Glasgow. MPs have been inundated with complaints about the test results.

Rutherglen MP Tom Greatrex said: ‘I had a constituent who was badly affected by Parkinson’s.

‘He could not use the left-hand side of his body and could barely get out of the house but he was assessed as fit for work.

‘A woman came to see me who was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and she had also been assessed as fit for work.’