Rachel Reeves refuses to back Government’s PIP crackdown

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has refused to back Government efforts to tighten access to disability benefits while criticising Conservative cuts to welfare.

Speaking to i during a campaign visit in West London, Ms Reeves refused to say whether Labour would continue a Government consultation on overhauling personal independence payments (PIP) and also appeared to criticise Tory cuts to “employment support”.

In 2016, the Conservative government cut £30 from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for claimants who seemed capable of looking for work.

Rishi Sunak has attempted to draw a dividing line with Labour on welfare with a consultation on the PIP system which could see some disabled people having their benefits reduced or removed altogether if it is judged they do not face higher costs as a result of their condition

The pledge came as part of a package of reforms to make Britain’s benefits system “sustainable and fit for the future” after a major increase in the number of people signed off work, often on the grounds of poor mental health.

rachel reeves refuses to back government’s pip crackdown

Rachel Reeves during a visit to a branch of Iceland supermarket in Fulham, south west London, to speak to the workforce about the cost of living crisis, while on the General Election campaign trail. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Asked by i if Labour would look to continue the Government consultation on PIP, Ms Reeves acknowledged a 20 per cent rise in the number of economically “inactive” people aged between 16 and 65 who are not seeking work but refused to say whether Labour would continue the consultation.

She instead highlighted the party’s plans to cut NHS waiting lists and make it easier for workers on benefits to take on additional hours without losing out on payments.

PIP is given to disabled people regardless of their financial situation, including many who are in work, to help with extra living costs if someone has a long-term physical or mental health condition or disability, and has difficulty doing certain everyday tasks.

It comes as more than 400,000 people on separate out of work benefits due to a health condition face having to find work under wider reforms of the system as the Prime Minister looks to end a “sick not culture” of people being signed off work ill by doctors.

Speaking on a visit to an Iceland supermarket, Ms Reeves said: “I spoke to one of the workers here today whose wife waited two years to get an operation on the NHS and as a result, he’s the sole earner in his family.

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“His wife wants to work and has not been able to whilst they’re waited for that hospital procedure.

“So we want to get those NHS waiting lists down which is why we’ve committed that extra money through cutting, cracking down on tax avoidance and ensuring the non doms pay their fair share of tax.

“We’ll also look at reforming the welfare system, including those obstacles that exist for people to take on additional hours because of the way the benefits system works.”

Pressed again on whether Labour would back the kind of crack down on welfare being proposed by the Government, Ms Reeves instead chose to criticise Tory cuts to benefits while highlighting her party’s plans .

She said: “We’ve got this perverse system at the moment where sometimes it doesn’t make sense for people to do additional hours. And of course that costs taxpayers more so we do need to make sure that the benefits system always rewards work.

“And also that people have the support that they need to be able to take up work especially when they have disabilities and the majority of people with disabilities want to work and if they’re able to work they should be supported to do so.

“But of course that employment support access to work has been cut and many people who want to work and are able to work and are not able to under this Conservative Government.”

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