Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has said that “genuinely” disabled people have “nothing to fear” over the proposed reforms to the welfare system.
Speaking at his party’s conference in Birmingham, the former Conservative leader told delegates that the new Universal Credit system would restore fairness and simplicity to what he called a “complex, outdated and wildly expensive” benefits system.
He set out his vision of social justice through benefit reform during a speech in which he talked of establishing a “contract with the country.”
He said: “We will crack down on fraud and help able people off welfare. This means we will have enough resources to provide peace of mind to the very vulnerable. This matters to us.”
“This government and this party don’t regard caring for the needy as a burden. It is a proud duty to provide financial security to the most vulnerable members of our society and this will not change,” he added.
Mr Duncan Smith said that he wanted “to be able to look every taxpayer in the eye” and be able to say that their money is going to “people who, without question, deserve society’s care.”
Prior to the Secretary of State’s speech, welfare minister Chris Grayling said during an on-stage discussion that “half of people on Incapacity Benefit have the potential to get back into work.”
Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, said that the government’s decision to keep DLA outside of both the Universal Credit and the benefit cap demonstrated its commitment to protecting disabled people.
“I hope that in excluding DLA from both the cap on benefits and also Universal Credit, that again putting our money where our mouth is, it’s showing that our real commitment to disabled people and vulnerable groups in particular, is very, very strong and alive and well and not just rhetoric,” she said.
However, Liz Sayce, chief executive of the disability organisation RADAR, said that although she welcomed the principle behind the reforms, she sounded caution that there was still more detail needed.
“We’re pleased about the principle, but we want to make sure that the principle is applied in a way that really makes sense in relation to people who have extra costs because of disability. Those might be extra costs covered by DLA, but there could be extra costs from other areas and we just want to make sure that the principle is applied fairly and properly to account for those costs.”
“Obviously the government are looking at the DLA assessment, so we can’t assume that people currently on DLA will be out of this cap. It’ll be people by 2013 who are out of DLA and that begs a number of questions on how DLA assessments are made and how fair those are. We also need to think about the implications for children, whether they’re disabled children or the children of disabled parents.
“I think it’s a positive signal that the government have said that DLA will be excluded from the cap, but the effect on individuals needs to be worked through.”