Cross-party MPs have raised a series of concerns with work and pensions secretary Esther McVey about the government’s treatment of disabled people on out-of-work benefits.
Members of the Commons work and pensions select committee were questioning McVey more than a year after her government introduced cuts of nearly £30 a week to payments to new claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG).
Ministers were ridiculed when they first announced the cuts and argued they would “incentivise” those in the WRAG to find work.
Claimants placed in the WRAG have all been found able to carry out some work-related activity but have been found not fit for work.
The minister for disabled people, Penny Mordaunt [now the international development secretary], later promised to find a way to cut the living costs of people in the WRAG and “mitigate the £30”.
But by the time the cuts were introduced, in April 2017, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) appeared to suggest that Mordaunt’s only success on living costs had been to ensure that new WRAG claimants would be told by their jobcentre work coaches how to secure the cheapest BT telephone tariff.
Yesterday (Wednesday), SNP’s Chris Stephens asked McVey what work had been done to look at the additional costs faced by WRAG claimants.
But she did not appear to have an answer and claimed instead that the cuts had been aimed at sick and disabled people who could “definitely do some work” and had allowed her department to invest more funds into supporting them into jobs.