I have been contacted by constituents over recent days concerned at Tory changes to Personal independence Payments.

I believe we must have a welfare system which is efficient, fair and compassionate and I appreciate how concerned many people with disabilities and their families are about the possibility of changes to the eligibility criteria for PIP. I also recognise how vital and valued this support is in helping meet the additional costs that having a disability can bring, such as purchasing equipment, services and support, and in enabling disabled people to live independently.

More widely, I am also concerned about the proposed cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) contained in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which would see the level of support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) cut by around £30 a week from April 2017. I oppose these unfair and unjust measures, as it will hurt vulnerable people who through no fault of their own are suffering from serious illnesses and are in and out of work intermittently. I therefore voted against the Bill in its entirety at Report Stage and Third Reading. The Government was defeated in the House of Lords over these plans, however, so far the Government has chosen not to accept the Lords amendments.  I will continue to oppose the Government’s attack on the most vulnerable in society.

The Government’s welfare reforms must help not hinder disabled people and I believe that the Government is reneging on its own manifesto commitment to protect welfare for disabled people.

As you may be aware, the new Secretary of State for Work & Pensions announced on 21st March that the Government was not now continuing with its planned cuts to PIP. However, what is not yet clear is that where the Government will find the £4.4 billion hole in its budget as a result of this announcement. This is something that the Labour opposition will monitor closely and expose any attempt that the Government make to bring in these cuts elsewhere in the welfare budget.

I can assure you that I will continue to follow this issue closely as it develops and stand up for the needs of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Gerald Jones MP

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