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Labour must drop Tory PIP and disability benefit reforms, top charities insist

Leading charities are urging Labour to ditch plans drawn up by the previous Conservative government to restrict work-related incapacity benefits and the personal independence payment (PIP).

A group of 10 disability and anti-poverty groups have written to the new Work and Pensions Secretary Liz Kendall asking her to drop the Tory proposals.

The joint letter warns Ms Kendall against following through with proposed changes to PIP that could see regular cash handouts to disabled people reduced, with greater use of one-off grants preferred.

Sir Keir Starmer’s new ministers have decided to keep in place an ongoing consultation into the planned overhaul of PIP payments and the wider welfare system.

The consultation will continue until 23 July, after which the Government will consider whether to push ahead with the ideas, ditch them, or implement them in a different form.

The letter by the 10 charities, including the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Disability Rights UK, says any proposals to reform PIP must be “redesigned with disabled people at the centre”.

Department for Work and Pensions on 24th July 2022 in London, United Kingdom. The Department for Work and Pensions, DWP, is responsible for welfare, pensions and child maintenance policy. As the UKs biggest public service department it administers the State Pension and a range of working age, disability and ill health benefits. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
The Conservative Party manifesto pledged to cut spending on benefits by £12bn a year by the end of the next parliament (Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)

It also warns of “imminent” plans to tighten up the work capability assessment (WCA) process, used to determine disabled and sick people’s claims for employment support allowance (ESA) and universal credit.

Reforms planned for 2025 announced by the Conservative government last year would see a reduction in points for some descriptors – the descriptions of a person’s ability to complete tasks.

The changes mean that 424,000 fewer people would be found to have limited capability for work and work-related activity by 2028-29, according to the Office for Budgetary Responsibility.

The group of charities said it meant hundreds of thousands of people with serious mobility or mental health problems would be denied extra universal credit worth over £400 a month.

They warned that the current WCA reform plans “would condemn seriously ill and disabled people to a life of poverty and the threat of sanctions”.

Anela Anwar, chief executive of anti-poverty Z2K, who co-ordinated the joint letter, said the plans were “misguided and dangerous”.

The charity leader said: “It was a relief that the previous government ran out of time before the election to implement the plans and we were hopeful that a new government would not take them forward.”

She added: “But we have heard nothing to date that has put our minds at ease. We urge the new secretary of state to put scrapping the plans at the top of her to-do list.”

The ten organisations are calling for a re-think of the wider welfare proposals set out in the green paper in April, which including greater use of one-off grants in a bid to cut the UK’s “spiralling” PIP bill.

Campaigners fear the changes proposed by Rishi Sunak’s government would make proving PIP eligibility even harder and see many people’s payments cut.

Labour emphasised its desire to get more people into work during the election campaign. The party manifesto pledged a review of universal credit.

Prior to becoming Prime Minister, the Labour leader said he supported the principle that “everyone who can work should work”.

And Chancellor Rachel Reeves has said Labour reforms would focus on “obstacles that exist for people to take on additional hours”.

i has contacted the Department for Work and Pensions for comment.

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