By Gordon Marsden MP
My casework and Parliamentary questions are increasingly telling me that disabled and vulnerable people in Blackpool are getting a raw deal from a combination of Government benefit cuts, lack of progress on its insulation Green Deal and spiralling energy company price hikes.
The final reading of the Government’s Bill to cap tax credits and benefits in the House of Commons – which I quizzed the Government over and voted against – now includes the people with disabilities, who will be affected by this, as well as those in-work and looking for it.
In my constituency of Blackpool South we have more than 10,500 disabled people on DLA and ESA who will be directly affected.
Despite Government promises to protect people with severe disabilities and health conditions, currently on Employment Support Allowance, they now face a real terms reduction in their support.
The amendment I supported would have protected the entire payment for those on ESA from this reduction in support.
Now we have the report by the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament just released concluding there were too many wrong decisions being made on Work Capacity Assessments by Atos and with four out of 10 appeals being overturned action needs to be taken by DWP Ministers.
The Government has ignored recommendations in regulating Atos and these failures have lead to a great deal of suffering.
One constituent told me: “I have been unwell for over 20 years and have had a number of assessments recently. The process is completely unfair, I feel I’m being bullied into giving up my claim for ESA.”
It’s not just benefit cuts hitting people with disabilities. Energy bills are going up at a rapid pace with EDF Energy raising their duel fuel prices by 10.8 per cent.
With more than 9,000 householders in Blackpool South officially seen as ‘fuel poor’ because of the amount they have to spend on energy bills.
These problems have not been helped with the ‘fiasco’ of the Government’s Green Deal Insulation scheme, which I told the Prime Minister in Question Time had ‘seven per cent interest charges and only five households countrywide so far signed up for the policy’.
Vulnerable people are suffering and will continue to suffer if homes aren’t insulated and if benefits continue to reduce in Blackpool.
The way to get the welfare bill down is to support disabled people with benefits where necessary and employment where possible and new initiatives to get others in Blackpool into work and get the economy growing.