On Tuesday 19th June Jon Cruddas MP co-signed a letter calling on the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions to end the ‘sanction first, hear appeals later’ attitude in the department. The letter was submitted by Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western, and gained cross party support.
The letter (which can be read in full HERE) outlined that the current disability benefits system is not fit for purpose and much like the Windrush Scandal, is creating a ‘hostile environment’ for disabled people.
Jon Cruddas commented: “I have an incredibly busy constituency office with over 800 people contacting me per week, and an all too familiar story is when constituents come to me after their benefits have been stopped and they have been forced into poverty by the government.
“My office is often a last resort and residents come to me down the line when they are facing repossession of vehicles, eviction due to rent arrears, or are using local foodbanks. In one of the richest countries in the world this is a shameful consequence of a callous Tory government.”
MPs have called for the system to be reformed immediately, some of the suggested reforms include:
- Removal of contracts from Atos and Capita with immediate effect and for the DWP to bring the assessments back in house.
- Honour Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Lifetime Awards and end unnecessary reassessment for those with long term conditions.
- Make it compulsory to take medical documentation into account at the initial assessment.
- Redesign the assessment process alongside disabled people so it accepts a social model of disability, not a medical model.
There were 10 recommendations in total and you can read the full letter HERE
Jon concluded: “the letter demands a fairer system, without the bias of private companies or the department trying to ‘hit targets’ of upholding the original decisions during the appeals process. It also outlines a structure which hopes to reduce the number of appeals as initial assessments would be more accurate.
“These proposed changes would have a positive impact on hundreds of people living in Dagenham and Rainham, which is why I am in full support of Matt Western’s stance.”
On the evening that the letter was sent the government announced that those with severe, degenerative medical conditions will no longer have to undergo regular tests to prove they remain eligible for disability benefits, in line with part of the second demand in the letter.