Iain Duncan Smith told MPs this week that the Tories will “ensure that those who cannot manage and have disabilities are treated with the utmost kindness” . However, he refused to rule out cutting employment and support allowance (ESA) or personal independence payment (PIP) for those not considered to be the ‘most vulnerable’ disabled claimants
IDS was asked directly by Madeleine Moon MP to rule out cuts to ESA, PIP and AA. He failed to do so, saying instead:
“I am currently reviewing all policy on welfare. The outcome will be announced when the work is complete, but as the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), said, it is our intention to protect the most vulnerable, including the disabled.
“I believe our reforms demonstrate our strong record of supporting disabled people. We introduced the personal independence payment to ensure more support is going to those who need it.”
IDS went on to say that
“Our purpose is to protect the most vulnerable. It has been from the beginning, and it will continue to be. There is, therefore, no reason for people to be fearful . . .”
“We felt that much of the huge increase in welfare spending under the Labour Government—an increase of some 60%—went to the wrong people who were not doing the right thing.
“That is the key point. Our purpose is to reform welfare in order to get people back to work, and to ensure that those who cannot manage and have disabilities are treated with the utmost kindness and given the utmost support.”
There is no definition of who ‘the most vulnerable’ are, but it is a phrase that has been used repeatedly in the election campaign and since.
A clue, perhaps, was in the answers IDS gave to another MP, Kate Green:
“Under PIP, 20% of claimants receive both the higher rates, as opposed to 16% under DLA. Our reforms are about helping those in the greatest need.”
And’ yet again moments later:
“Let me give the hon. Lady a simple pledge: we will protect the most vulnerable.”
The Conservatives have been extremely successful in promoting the idea that claimants are divided into a small number of ‘genuinely’ sick and disabled people and a much larger proportion of ‘shirkers’.
Now, we suspect , IDS wants to persuade the general public that, amongst the ‘genuinely’ disabled, there is only a small proportion who are ‘most vulnerable’ and ‘cannot manage’ and a much larger group who don’t really need state help at all.