Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation must mark a new start for disability policy
The resignation of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has plunged the national government into crisis, with the growing divisions in the Conservative party expected to be on display this afternoon when prime minister David Cameron addresses MPs on the EU summit.
Duncan Smith is now attacking the very programme of anti-disability measures he has implemented since the coalition government formed in 2010, telling the BBC yesterday that the government had “gone too far” in last week’s Budget, which included £1.3bn cuts to personal independence payments.
The former Conservative party leader has been accused of using the benefits debate as an excuse for political grandstanding over the forthcoming EU referendum, but the real problem of disability benefits cuts must not be lost in the Westminster theatre.
The government’s determination to get so-called ‘benefits scroungers’ back into work has led to accounts of genuinely disabled people being forced into exhausting assessments by outsourcing firm Atos and having vital support cut on flimsy grounds.
Some benefits recipients have allegedly taken their own lives as a result of the changes, and the UN is now investigating the government’s disability policy as a potential human rights violation.
Whatever his motivations, the mixture of support for Duncan Smith from Conservatives and celebration of his resignation from opponents shows how politically toxic disability benefits cuts have come.
His replacement Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, has already promised to scrap the cuts. Hopefully, his appointment is the start of a change in disability policy that assures proper funding to support the most vulnerable in society.
(Image: Iain Duncan Smith leaves BBC Broadcasting House on 20 March, c. Yui Mok from PA Wire)