POLITICS

Theresa May Accused Of 'Sneaking Out' Cuts To PIP Mental Health Benefits

Row over who called who and when

01/03/2017 14:19

Theresa May has been accused of trying to “sneak out” an attempt to deny 160,000 people with mental health problems an increase in benefits.

It came as a row broke out over whether work and pension secretary Damian Green gave his Labour shadow, Debbie Abrahams, enough notice of his plans.

The government is under fire for attempting to overrule a court decision that would expand the number of people who can receive Personal Independent Payments (PIP).

Ministers announced the move last Thursday in a written statement to parliament, when most MPs were focused on the Copeland and Stoke by-elections.

Written statements are often seen as a way to announce policy changes under the radar - although the prime minister today denied that was the intention.

Speaking during prime minister’s questions today, Jeremy Corbyn said it was “shameful” for ministers to try and fight the court ruling and to announce it in this way.

Green has insisted he made every attempt to contact Abrahams to inform her of the plans.

But a DWP source confirmed a voicemail was not left with the shadow work and pension secretary until after the announcement was made.

The Huffington Post understands that Green’s office called both Abrahams’ constituency and parliamentary offices on Thursday morning but did not receive an answer.

Green personally called Abrahams’ parliamentary office and left a voicemail at 4pm on Thursday afternoon.

Abrahams’ office provided Green with her mobile number on the following Monday morning and the work and pensions secretary then sent a text message.

Corbyn said today: “A government that found a billion pounds in inheritance tax cuts to benefit 26,000 families seems unable to find the money to support 160,000 people with debilitating mental health conditions,” the Labour leader said.

Agreeing to abide by the court ruling would cost the government an extra£3.5bn.

Corbyn said the move showed the Conservatives were still the “nasty party” - a name famously given to the Tories by the prime minister herself in 2002. 

But May said PIP was better for people with mental health conditions than the previous Disability Living Allowance system. And she insisted no one currently receiving benefits would have any money taken away.

“This is not a policy change. This is not a cut in the amount that is going to be spent on disability benefits and no one is going to see a reduction in their benefits,” May told the Commons.

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