Incapacity benefit changes will hurt blameless claimants

This week Labour peers in the House of Lords stood up for hard working savers and dealt a blow to the Government’s unfair welfare changes.

The coalition wants to stop or reduce Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) after one year from those with savings over £6000 or a partner in any form of work (ESA is currently replacing the old Incapacity Benefit). This will affect people who have saved for their retirement but who, through no fault of their own, fall ill or have an accident and have to stop working for a period.

On Wednesday Labour peers and independents passed amendments to remove these provisions from the Government’s controversial Welfare Reform Bill.

Unfortunately ministers have since said that they will attempt to overturn the Lords’ amendments.

If the Government wins out then the people affected will likely be in their 40s, 50s or early 60s. They’ll have done what we always hear we should be doing – putting something away for retirement. They’ll have suffered from their illness or injury. They’ll have suffered again from losing their job and a drop in income. To then be forced to dig deep into their savings after a year would be a cruel final blow.

These changes are also storing up trouble for the future by discouraging people from saving, meaning the state will likely have to pick up the tab when they retire.

The Government’s plans punish hard working people who have to take time out of work through no fault of their own. I call on ministers to listen to the Lords and accept their amendments.

This article was first published in the Edinburgh Evening News on Saturday 14 January 2012.

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