Disabled people are at risk of being pushed into poverty, claim disability charities following revelations of government plans to cut £2.5bn from employment support allowance (ESA).
At the weekend, The Observer published a leaked letter from chancellor George Osborne detailing plans to cut £2.5bn from the employment support allowance bill by 2014-15.
Employment and support allowance was brought in by the Labour government to replace incapacity benefit and offers benefits to unemployed disabled people.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Radar, said: “We support plans to make it easier to move from benefits to work. But arbitrary benefit cuts risk more disabled people living in poverty with no prospect of work.”
Vanessa Stanislas, chief executive of the Disability Alliance, said that the cuts were targeted at a small group with the highest needs. “This is a fundamental shift in the welfare state,” she added.
Rebecca Rennison, senior policy officer at Leonard Cheshire disability, said the cuts could push people out of the system and they would not know how to gain support to allow them to find work. “It could lead to people being more reliant on other services,” she said.
The Department of Work and Pensions said it remained in discussion with the Treasury over how spending will be cut.
The government has already announced plans to introduce a medical assessment for disability living allowance and to cut the welfare budget by a further £4bn.
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of disability charity Scope, said that the cuts to employment support allowance undermined government promises to ensure fairness when making cuts. “This highlights the critical need for the government to undertake a full impact assessment to ensure that it is not the most vulnerable people that are hit the hardest by the cuts,” he said.
On Friday, it emerged that the government had missed the deadline to submit its initial defence to a judicial review examining whether it had conducted an impact assessment of its budget proposals on disabled people, ethnic minorities and women.
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