23 April 2015
By John Pring, Disability News Service
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has pledged to block plans to cut spending on disability benefits by £3 billion by 2017-18, if enough of its MPs are elected.
In one of a series of manifesto commitments to disabled people that focus heavily on welfare reform, the party says its MPs in Westminster would vote to overturn the planned cuts to spending on working-age disability living allowance (DLA) and personal independence payment (PIP) previously announced by the coalition, and would try to ensure that PIP was scrapped.
The party says that Scotland’s share of the £3 billion cuts would be about £310 million per year, which would see more than 100,000 disabled people in Scotland losing more than £1,100 a year.
The manifesto says: “We will use our influence to make sure that these cuts do not proceed and that disabled people are given the support they deserve.”
The SNP – whose MPs will “demand an end to austerity” – says in its general election manifesto that it would vote for an immediate end to the “unfair bedroom tax”, and seek an “urgent review” of the coalition’s regime of social security conditionality and sanctions.
This review would take “particular account” of the needs of people with mental health problems, and “seek to establish an approach that is proportionate and ethical, that recognises the particular challenges facing some individuals, and that avoids excessive or blanket measures which penalise those looking for work”.
The manifesto adds: “The removal of cash benefits should be a last, rather than a first, resort.”
The SNP manifesto pledges to back an increase in the level of disability benefits, universal credit, tax credits and child benefit by at least the rate of inflation, as well as supporting an “urgent review” of the system of assessments for both PIP and employment and support allowance.
The SNP already plans to set up Scotland’s own replacement for the Independent Living Fund, when it is closed by the UK government at the end of June.
Like all of the other main parties, the SNP backs the further integration of the NHS and the social care system, and says it will ensure that provision across Scotland “is joined-up and provides a seamless service, especially for people with long-term conditions and disabilities”.
Asked how realistic were the party’s plans to block the cuts to PIP and DLA spending, SNP’s work and pensions spokeswoman, Eilidh Whiteford, told Disability News Service: “The SNP manifesto makes clear that we will stand up for disabled people by opposing cuts to disability benefits.
“We have said that we want to work with progressive voices from across the UK to deliver a fairer approach – the challenge for Labour is whether they will work with us to protect disabled people.”
Asked why the party’s manifesto commitments to disabled people focused so heavily on social security reform, she said: “The SNP government has a strong track record when it comes to promoting the rights of disabled people, but this election in Scotland is an opportunity to ensure Westminster changes course on the areas where it still has responsibility, such as welfare policy.
“The SNP will always work to break down barriers to equality, whether at Westminster or Holyrood.”