MP Chris Skidmore slammed for voting to slash disability benefit
KINGSWOOD MP Chris Skidmore has been condemned for voting to slash benefits for disabled people while a member of an influential parliamentary group which champions their causes.
But Mr Skidmore, a Conservative MP who is secretary of the all-party group for disabled people, has responded by saying it was crucial to make sure that benefits are directed at people who need them most.
He was one of five MPs of the group who voted against five amendments to the controversial Welfare Reform Bill as it passed through the House of Lords.
Mark Williams, co-chair of the Bristol Disability Equality Forum, said he was "horrified" that someone in Mr Skidmore's position could contemplate voting down the amendments. He said: "Disabled people are living in fear every day and Mr Skidmore obviously does not realise that it is hard enough to live as it is."
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Mr Williams, who suffers from cerebral palsy and needs 24-hour support from personal assistants, said disabled people already had to live from hand to mouth without further cuts in benefits.
Baroness Wilkins, the disabled Labour peer and vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary disability group, is reported as saying that those MPs who voted to overturn the Lords' amendments while also playing leading roles in all-party groups relating to disability were "outrageous".
Mr Skidmore said: "We need to cut down on fraud and abuse and make sure the money goes to the disabled people who really need it. I have always fought for people who are genuinely in need and will continue to do so. I am also proud of being a member of the all-party disability group. But the whole point is that benefits don't necessarily go to those people who need them most – this kind of fraud has been going on for years and must be tackled."
The five MPs voted to:
â cut the time limit for claiming the contributory form of employment and support allowance (ESA) – for those in the work-related activity group – from two years to one.
â reinstate contributory ESA time limits for some people receiving cancer treatment.
â prevent disabled young people with the highest support needs claiming contributory ESA.
â cut benefits for young disabled people with lower support needs, which will see most families with a disabled child losing £27 per week.
The controversial bill provides for the introduction of a "Universal Credit" to replace a range of existing means-tested benefits and tax credits for people of working age from next year.
The bill makes other significant changes to the benefits system and is currently going through the parliamentary process of debate before the final version receives Royal Assent.