Disability campaigner quizzes MP on cuts to support

Emma Donaldson, campaigning with Conservative councillor Ben Bradley (left) and MP Mark Spencer at Kirkby train station
Emma Donaldson, campaigning with Conservative councillor Ben Bradley (left) and MP Mark Spencer at Kirkby train station

A disabled access campaigner from Hucknall is calling on MP Mark Spencer to explain why he backed moves to cut disability payments by £30 a week.

Mr Spencer voted against a House of Lords plan to assess the impact on sick and disabled people of reducing Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) WRAG payments by £30 a week on March 2.

Emma Donaldson enlisted the MP’s help for a campaign to get disabled access at Kirkby railway station last year.

Emma, who has suffered with focal cervical spinal atrophy since birth, will not be affected by the change as her condition is too severe. She said: “At the end of the day it is going to hit people hard. I would ask him why he voted for it and then give him a detailed version of somebody’s life that needs it and why this cut is ridiculous.

“It is a no win situation. I think it is terrible. I don’t know why they can’t cut it from other places.”

The move will see ESA cut from £102.15 to £73.10 a week from April 2017 - equal to jobseeker’s allowance - if claimants are deemed fit for “work-related activity”.

An estimated 500,000 ESA claimants, will see their benefits reduced by £1,500 a year. The cuts will affect new claimants or those who interrupt their claims for more than 12 weeks. Those with the most severe work-limiting conditions and disabilities are placed in the Support Group. The payment to people in this group will not be reduced.

Charities have warned that the cut to the benefit would make it more difficult for disabled people to find work and that many struggled to afford food on the benefit at its current level. The Government says the cut will motivate disabled people to find work.

Emma, 29, of Buckingham Avenue, said: “I have always said personally if the right job came along and it fitted in with my tiredness levels and my carers I would gladly go to work.

“I can’t make him change his mind. At the end of the day I don’t agree with what he has done. But he was brilliant through my campaign. I am in an awkward situation.

“I don’t think disabled people get a decent amount of money from the government.”

Emma said her campaign to put pressure on Netowrk Rail to improve the level of access at Kirkby is on hold after Network Rail revised their estimate for the work from £1m to £2m.

The government’s equalities watchdog, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHCR) says the proposed cuts will disproportionately affect disabled people, widen inequalities and undermine the UK’s human rights obligations.

It said the proposed cut will “cause unnecessary hardship and anxiety to people who have been independently assessed and found unfit for work”.

In a Facebook post, Mr Spencer said: “We are spending more on disability support than Labour did. We now spend £50 billion a year on benefits to support people with disabilities or health conditions. This represents around 2.5 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product.

“New claimants with the most severe conditions (support category) will also not lose any money.

“New claimants who are able to work will get the same level of benefit as JSA, and will get much more support in finding employment than has previously been available.

“I think this is the right approach – our welfare system should help those who can work into work and provide a decent standard of living to those who can’t work.”