MP joins Westminster protest

Dumfries and Galloway MP Richard Arkless joined campaigners outside Westminster last week to protest against cuts facing thousands of disabled people on out-of-work benefits.

In 2015, the government announced in its summer budget that it was reducing the financial support for hundreds of thousands of disabled people on out-of-work benefits. The cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) of £30 each week will reduce disabled people’s incomes from £102.15 to £73.10 each week and will affect all those who were deemed to be capable of work at some point in the future.

The change will take effect from April this year with new claimants being placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) of ESA. These people will now receive the same weekly payment as those on jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), with an annual loss of about £1,500 a year.

Mr Arkless has said that the there are 660 people in Dumfries and Galloway currently receiving disability benefits who will be affected by this cut.

He said: “This government seems to think that people within the disabled community are simply work shy and in need of some encouragement to find employment. Forcing already vulnerable people into financial hardship and poverty does not assist them back into work. Many of the people who fall into this WRAG category are already coping with difficult conditions such as multiple sclerosis - conditions that are exacerbated by the stress and anxiety that these cuts would undoubtably cause. No one wants a something for nothing Society but cutting benefits for disabled people is not the way to a achieve that. It’s as if they never think about the people they affected with these changes.”

“I was pleased to be able to take part in the protest last week to highlight the £1,500 that the Government will be clawing back each year directly from the pockets of disabled people.”